You know how you learn the definition of a word and then suddenly you keep hearing that word everywhere? Over the past month it has been that way with me and the Ward Eight cocktail.
I had just finished reading the book Drinking Boston: A History of the City and its Spirits by Stphanie Schorow, in which the author spends a great deal of time discussing this drink and its history. The Ward Eight is the most famous classic cocktail from Boston, supposedly invented at the Locke-Ober restaurant in 1898.
In trying to verify the date of the drink’s creation, Schorow studies the history of grenadine, the pomegranate syrup used in the drink. It was a new ingredient in America right around this time.
Coincidentally, I was also studying the history of grenadine on my website. I performed a literature review and drew some conclusions, including the surprising finding that grenadine has been made as an artificially flavored cocktail ingredient for over 100 years!
In another coincidence, two of my favorite drink writers also decided to look into the Ward Eight in the January 2013 edition of magazines. Historian David Wondrich took a look at the cocktail’s history in Imbibe magazine, and writer Wayne Curtis covered the drink in searching for the quintessential New England cocktail in Yankee magazine.
All that for a drink that is a simple spin on a Whiskey Sour.
Many drinks as old as the Ward Eight have plenty of variations, and it’s not clear at all which is the true original form for this cocktail. The simplest variation is substituting grenadine for simple syrup in a Whiskey Sour, so the only ingredients are rye, grenadine, and lemon juice. One of the more complex I’ve seen calls for rye, lemon, simple syrup, grenadine, bitters, soda water, and mint. Both of these recipes are listed in Drinking Boston.
But the most common version of the recipe seems to be rye, grenadine, lemon, orange juice, and a splash of soda water, so that’s what I’ll list below.
The most important ingredient here is the grenadine. The most popular brands are little more than red food coloring and sugar water. Seek out a brand that includes pomegranate juice as an ingredient, or use this very easy method to make your own.
The recipe below should be seen as a starting point. The acidity of the citrus and the brand of grenadine you use can dramatically alter the flavor of the drink, so start with the below recipe and adjust with more lemon if the drink is too sweet or more grenadine if too sour.
2 fl. oz. Rye Whiskey
.5 fl. oz. Lemon Juice
.5 fl. oz. Orange Juice
.5 fl. oz. Grenadine
splash Soda Water (optional)
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Add a splash of soda water if desired.