The Ward Eight is a classic cocktail with many variations and an array of origin stories. The most common modern interpretation of the Ward Eight uses a mix of rye whiskey, lemon juice, orange juice, and a splash of grenadine.
History of the cocktail
Although a few stories exist surrounding the invention of the Ward Eight, it was created in Boston, Massachusetts, most likely in 1898.
A politician named Martin M. Lomasney won a seat in the state’s legislature thanks to votes from Boston’s eighth ward. Lomasney was an important and popular political figure and the cocktail was created to celebrate his win.
This story claims that the drink was invented at Boston’s Locke-Ober bar. Other stories say it was first created at the Quincy House.
According to Liquor.com, the Locke-Ober bartenders were so certain that he would win, the drink was actually created in advance of the election.
Variations on the recipe
There have been a number of variations on the recipe throughout history. Some recipes call for lemon juice, some lime. Some recipes use different types of whiskey (like bourbon or even Scotch), or skip the grenadine altogether.
Interestingly, the Santa Clara Company filed a trademark on the “Ward 8” in the early 1900s, listing its ingredients as whiskey, lime, grenadine, and sugar syrup.
The Locke-Ober recipe, however, called for two ounces of rye whiskey, half ounces each of orange juice and lemon juice, and a teaspoon of grenadine.
This recipe has informed most modern takes on the drink. Here I’m sharing David Wondrich’s Ward Eight, which adds another teaspoon of grenadine for a more balanced cocktail. Still, the Ward Eight is a very tart whiskey sour riff.
Real grenadine is a must
When making classics like the Ward Eight, Jack Rose, Mary Pickford, or Scofflaw, it’s critical to use authentic grenadine syrup made from pomegranates.
Real grenadine is a mix of pomegranate juice, sugar, orange flower water, and sometimes pomegranate molasses. You can very easily make your own in just a few minutes with my Grenadine Recipe.
The grenadine sold at most grocery stores is a neon red mix of corn syrup, artificial flavors, and red dye. There is just no comparison when it comes to flavor! Real grenadine is a deep red color and it’s flavor is both sweet and tart.
Tip: If you don’t have orange flower water or pomegranate molasses, even just mixing equal parts pomegranate juice (like the brand POM) and sugar will produce an infinitely better tasting cocktail syrup than the fake grenadine.
Adjust to taste
If you’re not a fan of dry and tart whiskey cocktails, the Ward Eight might not be for you. However, if you enjoy the flavors but just find it a bit too dry, there’s nothing wrong with adjusting the drink’s specs to increase the sweetness.
For a sweeter drinker, try using equal parts orange juice, lemon juice, and grenadine. I recommend trying 2 ounces of rye whiskey with half ounces of the remaining ingredients and adjusting from there.
Orange juice is a particularly tricky cocktail ingredient because it’s sweetness and sourness can vary dramatically. Make sure to use freshly squeezed orange and lemon juices for the best tasting drink every time!
You might also enjoy these other classic cocktails:
Ward Eight Classic Cocktail
- 2 oz rye whiskey
- ½ oz freshly squeezed orange juice
- ½ oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons grenadine
- Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice.
- Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass.
- Garnish with cocktail cherries.