August 2: The San Francisco Cable Cars

cable_carSan Francisco is known for several icons (The Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, the Transamerica Tower) but in my opinion, the thing that best exemplifies the City by the Bay are the San Francisco cable cars, and it just so happens that San Francisco’s cable car system started up on this day in 1873.

The cable car system was developed by an Englishmen named Andrew Hallidie who was trying to find a better way for people to travel around the city. You see, prior to Hallidie’s invention, the city’s street cars were pulled by teams of horses. Unfortunately, as anyone who’s ever been to San Francisco can attest, the city is extremely hilly and you can likely imagine that horse pulled cars and steep hills do not make for a good combination. In fact, one day in 1863 Hallidie had the displeasure of watching a team of horses struggle to drag a car up wet cobblestones on Nob Hill. One horse slipped and the street car and whole team of horses slid back down the hill. Five horses died, no human deaths were reported.

Conveniently, Hallidie’s father held the British patent for wire-rope cable and Hallidie the younger had already used that knowledge to haul cars in gold mines. So, Hallidie simply adapted this technology for heavier cars and got in touch with San Francisco City Hall to get the cable cars going. The first test of the line was held on Nob Hill on August 2, 1873 and the line would officially open to the public on September 1 of the same year. Today the San Francisco cable cars are included in National Register of Historic Places, and is probably the only “Historical Place” that moves.

While working at Harry Denton’s in San Francisco back in 1996, bartender Tony Abou-Ganim created a new twist on the classic Sidecar that he dubbed the Cable Car. Abou-Ganim used spice rum in place of brandy to give the drink a more Barbary Coast feel.

Cable Car

  • 2 ounces Spiced Rum
  • 1 ounce Cointreau
  • 1 ounce lemon juice

Wet the rim of a chilled cocktail glass with a lemon wedge. Dip the rim into a saucer with cinnamon sugar until the rim is nicely coated with cinnamon sugar. Shake the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice and strain into the coated glass. Finally, twist a lemon peel over the drink and drop it in.

Tomorrow: “Three years ago I came to Florida without a nickel in my pocket. Now I’ve got a nickel in my pocket.”


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