Ward 8 Cocktail

First, just a reminder that Sunday, November 28th, 2010, is our monthly exercise in folly, Savoy Cocktail Book Night at Alembic Bar. If any of the cocktails on this blog have captured your fancy, stop by after 6 and allow the skilled bartenders (and me) to make them for you. It is always a fun time.

Ward Eight Cocktail
1 Teaspoonful Grenadine. (1 generous tsp. Small Hand Foods Grenadine)
1/4 Orange Juice. (3/4 oz Orange Juice)
1/4 Lemon Juice. (3/4 oz Lemon Juice)
1/2 Rye Whisky. (1 1/2 oz Michter’s US 1 Straight Rye)
Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

I suspect The Savoy Cocktail Book may have cribbed this from Robert Vermiere’s “Cocktails: How to Mix Them”. Vermeire notes, “This cocktail originates from Boston (U.S.A.), a city divided into eight wards.”

On his writeup of a couple years ago, fellow blogger Paul Clarke, of Cocktail Chronicles, further informs:

The Ward Eight purportedly dates back more than a century, to a time when politics could be truly bare-knuckle. Rumored to have been created at the Locke-Ober (the second oldest restaurant in Boston) to celebrate the victory of Martin Lomasney’s 1898 campaign for a seat representing Boston’s Eighth Ward—a celebration that suitably took place the night before the election—the Ward Eight is a simple twist on a whiskey sour.

For me, it reminds me of the first or second time young Thomas Waugh served me when he was working at Alembic Bar. I asked for the Ward Eight from the Classic side of the menu and he said something like, “I like to make this on the sour side, is that all right?” I replied in the affirmative, as I preferred nicely tart drinks to over sweetened concoctions. What I got, though, was a bit beyond the sour that I was used to making for myself and slightly into uncomfortable territory.

Drinking this now, I think what Thomas was making was probably exactly this recipe, with only a teaspoon of grenadine as sweetener.

The problem we have, though, is that the recipe is proportional, yet the sweetener is called for in an absolute volume.

Fortunately, while Craddock was mostly proportional in his recipe writing, Robert Vermeire was not, calling for his cocktails to be based on a half gill of total volume. A half Gill ends up somewhere a bit more than 2 ounces, so I was being generous here with my 3 oz pour. So sue me, I like Whiskey Sours.

Ultimately, the amount of grenadine you use falls to personal taste, but I think you should try put this one near the edge of your tolerance for tartness. It shouldn’t be a rich drink, it should be a tart tonic.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

4 thoughts on “Ward 8 Cocktail

  1. As a Boston resident (well, Cambridge, but who’s counting?), I’ve always wanted to like this drink more than I do, since it would supposedly confirm a rich history of cocktails in the city. Unfortunately, it’s a pretty mediocre drink – not bad at all, just trotted out a bit too frequently on bar menus here which are trying to pay homage to the city’s history.

    Oh well, at least we have a rich contemporary cocktail scene, right?

    • I don’t really think this is necessarily a mediocre cocktail, but drinks with orange juice are tricky.

      The keys to a good cocktail with orange juice are fresh, in season juice oranges (valencia!) and freshly squeezed juice.

      No juice from concentrate, no bottled juice, no watery out of season navel oranges.

      A Rye Whiskey with some spine is also important in a drink that is half citrus juice.

      If you can satisfy the above, you are well on your way to a better than mediocre Ward 8 Cocktail, if you can’t, don’t bother.

      • I’ve also always felt this is one a good bartender should sample and be ready to adjust before sending out. I’d almost go as far as to say this should be done any time you’re making a cocktail that calls for more than one citrus variety.

        • This might be precisely why it ends up so uneven in most instances. The Blood and Sand, possibly the most famous classic cocktail with orange juice (I know, the Bronx, but still…), is one of my favorite drinks when made properly. On the other hand, when made by a bartender that isn’t focused on putting out good product, it can be totally bizarre and seem just wrong.

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