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Ward 8 – Back on the Horse

Posted by Reese on 2009-04-12 @ 10:00am

My friends, I have fantastic news!  I’m back on the bourbon horse and loving it.  I started the week with a bit of trepidation, but that soon faded as I was reunited with my delicious old friend, tasty American whiskey.  The Ward 8 was a perfect reintroduction to this fine spirit although, in the future I’ll be mixing mine with rye.  The spirit of choice in recipes from my library and the vast interwebs were a mixed bag between rye and bourbon.

Ward Eight

I would guess this stems from two things.  First rye was the American whiskey of choice pre-prohibition and as such most classic recipes are going to reference this spirit.  There was, however, a sad time after prohibition all the way up to only a few years ago when rye wasn’t widely available, if you could find a bottle at all.  This led to a number of classic cocktails being rewritten to included bourbon instead.  While this is certainly not a bad change you lose the spiciness that rye brings to the cocktail.

This week I tried both rye and bourbon to get a feel for the difference and found that, for my palate, rye was a much better match for this drink.  The spiciness of the spirit played very well with the sweet and sour flavors of the citrus juices.  If you don’t have a bottle of rye on hand and want to mix this one up, give a bourbon with a higher rye content a try.  Bulleit springs to mind as one of my favorite rye heavy bourbons.  However, I’d urge you to grab a bottle of rye next time you’re shopping.  My mixing rye of choice is Rittenhouse 100 proof.  It can be found for relatively cheap and has a nice spicy flavor that works great in cocktails.

I started my week of imbibing with the Joy of Mixology recipe and was very pleased.  This cocktail is nicely citrusy with the rye shining through on the back end.  The grenadine doesn’t add a huge amount of flavor, but does add a nice color and some possibly needed sweetness.  In my case my oranges weren’t overly sweet and as such I had to go with 1/4 oz of grenadine to get the balance that I was looking for.  I would have stuck with this recipe and called it a week were I not spurred on the by the deliciousness of rye to try a recipe that placed more emphasis on the spirit.

The recipe I found on Esquire’s website was a logical next step.  It keeps the rye steady at 2 oz, but drops the orange and lemon juice to 3/4 oz rather than the full 1 oz called for in the Joy of Mixology.  The result is a drier cocktail that focuses more on the rye.  Exactly what I was looking for.  The fruit juice and grenadine flavors are still present and the sourness is dialed down a bit.  Esquire (David Wondrich) calls for 1 tsp of grenadine, but from my previous experiments I opted for 1/4 oz (1 1/2 tsp) and found that worked better in my case.

Certainly this progression could continue by next trying the cocktail with 1/2 oz each of the juices, but I think at that point you start to get away from what a Ward 8 was intended to be.  That hasn’t stopped people in the past (I’m looking at you Martini), but it wasn’t what I was after so I stopped my experimentation with a slightly modified version of the Esquire recipe.  As always I’m open to hearing suggestions on possible modifications.

Ward 8 (Cocktail Hacker)
2 oz Rye
3/4 oz Orange Juice
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1/4 oz Grenadine
1) Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice
2) Shake until thoroughly chilled
3) Strain into a cocktail glass