August 11: Alcatraz

alcatrazAt 9:40 AM on August 11, 1934, 137 prisoners from the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas arrived at their new home: the newly opened prison on Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay. During its 29 years of operation, Alcatraz would play host to some of the most notorious criminals of the mid 20th century including Al Capone, Mickey Cohen, Arthur “Doc” Barker, George “Machine Gun Kelly” and Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson.

Unsurprisingly, the chief designer of every inmate at Alcatraz was to escape the island fortress. In total there were 14 escape attempts, the first of which happened in April of 1936. Officially, all escape attempts were failures that ended with most of the participants either recaptured or killed during their attempt. However, the prisoners involved in two different escape attempts (one in December 1937, the other in June 1962) were never found and were presumed to have drowned in the Bay.

While the June 1962 escape is the most famous one, the final Alcatraz escape attempt happened in the early morning hours of December 16, 1962 and  was as close as any attempt came to being successful: John Paul Scott and Darl Parker escaped from the prison by using banjo strings and a makeshift saw to cut through the bars on a window in one of the prison kitchens. While Parker was found on a nearby rock formation known as Little Alcatraz, Scott managed to swim three miles in near-frigid water to San Francisco’s Fort Point, beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. Upon arriving on the mainland, Scott immediately passed out unconscious, suffering from exhaustion and hypothermia. His freedom was short lived, as he was discovered by a group of teenagers and was soon recaptured by the authorities. However, Scott remains the only Alcatraz escapee to ever make it back to civilization.

So, nobody successfully escaped from Alcatraz, but you can still enjoy a cocktail called Escape From Alcatraz. This drink comes to us from Chicago bartender Lynn House. House created this as a tribute to Al Capone, and the recipe fittingly uses Scarface’s favorite whiskey, Templeton rye.

Escape From Alcatraz

  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 3 orange slices
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice
  • 1 ounce Cointreau
  • 2 ounces Templeton Rye Whiskey

Muddle the ginger, orange slices and lemon juice in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add the Cointreau, whiskey and ice and then shake thoroughly. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass and garnish with an orange slice.

Tomorrow: One actor, five films; all of them Best Picture nominees.

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