1919. The legend of Black Squirrel.
The damn 18th Amendment was ratified, marking the beginning of prohibition.
Nearly as soon as production, sales, and distribution of liquor was outlawed in the States, a new type of entrepreneur was born – the rumrunner. And, the rumrunners knew their market was Buffalo, New York – the richest city in the country, and residents were thirsty. For Buffalo, a city fueled by paychecks earned on the Erie Canal, then spent to drink alongside it – prohibition came at a pretty lousy time. Lucky for them, it didn’t take long for moonshiners in Ontario, Canada to fire-up the stills and float some legendary distillations across the lake under cover of darkness.
The opportunity of prohibition was not lost on Canadian Carl Hartmann. Carl sold truckloads of maple syrup to the markets around Buffalo and the rest of the Great Lakes region. His maple trees were all he had in the world, having chosen a life of solitude in the woods. On one of Carl’s last maple syrup deliveries, he brought a special bottle to friend Jack James. After trying it Jack promptly insisted that Carl bring as much as he can, as soon as he can. Carl agreed and gave Jack a quiet spot on a dark stretch of the Black Rock Canal where he could meet him by boat at midnight.
When midnight came and went, Jack set off up the canal and into Lake Erie to see what became of Carl. What he found became legend.
Jack found Carl dead in his boat drifting on the open water -- lake water slowly filling his boat from a hole left by his recently fired rifle. Next to him, five toppled crates filled with liquor. On the top-most crate, watching over Carl, was a one-eyed black squirrel.
Jack secured the broken boat and motored off back to shore. Jack pulled alongside Carl’s skiff and loaded the unbroken bottles and Carl’s body into the back of his truck. With nothing more he could do, Jack threw his lighter into Carl’s boat and drove off into the early morning light. In the shadows of the roaring flames, a black squirrel sat watching.
The next week Jack James’ speakeasy on Amherst Street hosted a wake for his friend Carl. That night, he also served the last drop of the best drink he ever had. When patrons asked when he was getting more, Jack only had one answer, “never again.” When patrons pressed further on what they had been drinking, Jack paused, looked down and answered, “Black Squirrel”. And Black Squirrel was born.