For my weekly cocktail today (and I use the word ‘weekly’ in its loosest sense, of course, since I haven’t done one of these in several weeks), I present to you the Ward Eight, a fitting drink for election season. The Ward Eight, essentially a variation on a whiskey sour, is said to have been invented in 1898 at the Locke-Ober restaurant in Boston, to honour an election victory by Martin Lomasney – the boss of the city’s Ward Eight.
In all honesty, however, I wasn’t thinking about trivial things like elections when I decided to make this; I had considerably more important things on my mind, like the fact that I’d been meaning to make grenadine for ages and hadn’t yet got around to it. This bright red syrup is used to add a pinky-orange tint and a sweet-tart taste to cocktails like the Tequila Sunrise, Singapore Sling, and Planter’s Punch, as well as shorter drinks like the Pink Lady and this, the Ward Eight.
In theory, the red colour in grenadine comes from pomegranates (grenade is French for pomegranate), but the kind of eye-poppingly red grenadine you can buy in the shops now is generally made from corn syrup and food colouring, with some berry extracts if you’re lucky, and as such it has become a rather disreputable ingredient. Fortunately, as numerous corners of the internet attest, actual pomegranate-y grenadine is super easy to make at home.
There are a few competing ideas about how best to make grenadine and what should go into it, but at base, it is just a simple syrup involving pomegranate juice and sugar, which you can make either by heating the juice with the sugar to combine them, or shaking them until your arm falls off if you wish to avoid the slightly richer cooked taste. This discussion from Jeffrey Morgenthaler was most helpful to me, and I essentially followed his recommendation to heat it gently, rather than boil (this helps preserve a fresh taste) and to add pomegranate molasses for extra flavour. Orange-blossom water is also generally recommended, but I omitted this.
1 cup pomegranate juice (you could juice actual pomegranates for this, as Morgenthaler does, but I used Pom Wonderful, which is 100% juice)
1 cup sugar
1 oz pomegranate molasses
1/2 tsp orange blossom water (I treated this as optional)
Gently heat the sugar and pomegranate juice in a saucepan – don’t bring it to the boil. Stir in pomegranate molasses when the juice is already hot. Leave to cool and store in a jar in the fridge. Morgenthaler recommends adding an ounce or so of vodka if you intend to use it over a long period.
I was a bit anxious about homemade grenadine not being red enough, as I’ve seen some complaints about unattractive grey or brown cocktails (l’horreur), but mine worked fine in the Ward Eight. It does, however, look uncomfortably like I’m keeping a jar of my blood in the fridge, which, when combined with my recent binge-watching of the Vampire Diaries, has raised one or two eyebrows around the house.
And now for the cocktail itself. As I say, it’s basically a variation of a whiskey sour, with the addition of orange juice and grenadine. As you’d expect for drink that’s over a century old, the recipe is quite hard to pin down, with varying quantities of orange and lemon juice, some recommending a splash of soda water, and some going for Angostura bitters. I liked the idea of the bitters, so I followed this recipe from The Kitchn’s excellent “9-bottle bar” series, which is where I first read about the Ward Eight a couple of years ago. I love the fruitiness of this drink, it’s a bit sweeter and gentler than a whiskey sour, but still quite spirit-forward. It definitely benefits from the bitters, which add an edge to cut into the sweetness. And if you need any more convincing, my mother, who is not a cocktail drinker, pronounced it ‘quite nice.’
2 oz rye whiskey
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz orange juice
1/4 oz grenadine
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with…. whatever, it seems? Orange peel, orange slice, maraschino cherry, some combination thereof. Or a small paper Massachusetts flag, which seems to have been the original decoration – I didn’t have one of those on hand.