With warring backstories and more variations than you can count, whiskey cocktails like the Old Fashioned, the Whiskey Sour, the Sazerac, and the Ward 8 inspire deep loyalties.

To the bartenders out there, it may seem strange to include both the Whiskey Sour and the Ward 8 here. Depending on the recipe, the Ward 8 looks to be a variation on the Whiskey Sour, but made with orange juice and grenadine. Though it very well may be a humble variation on the theme, its history earns it a place in the archives of classic cocktails.

A BOSTON BEVERAGE

The Ward 8's roots are firmly established in Boston. Although Boston is currently the site of a thriving cocktail scene, its contributions to the hallowed halls of cocktail history are almost nonexistent. In fact, the Ward 8 is the only cocktail known to have been invented there during the First Golden Age of Cocktails (between the 1860s and Prohibition).

Aside from its city of origin, the tipple’s exact story is about as murky as the Old Fashioned’s. The most famous myth about it claims that it was invented in 1898 at the Winter Place Hotel (later known as Locke-Ober). As the story goes, it was created to celebrate an election victory for Martin “The Mahatma” Lomasney, a local political boss. The drink was most likely named for the voting district, but this colorful story first appeared in a magazine in 1951.

At least one other account credits Locke-Ober as the cocktail’s birthplace, but without a date. Yet another claims it was invented at Lomasney’s Puritan Club in 1903. Like so many other things, the exact story has been lost to the fog of drinking history.

We do know that the Ward 8 was first mentioned in print in 1906. In A Bachelor’s Cupboard, a book by Amy Lyman Phillips, the cocktail is mentioned as a use for grenadine. Unfortunately, Phillips gives no hints as to where or by whom the drink was invented.

Unfortunately, tracking down the Ward 8’s original recipe is possibly more difficult than pinning down its history. Though Esquire named it one of the best cocktails of 1934, few breadcrumbs about its composition are left.

HIT THE LAB

More than 50 years ago, a New York Sun writer invited readers to send in recipes for the drink. About 400 people replied. Like the Old Fashioned, professional and home bartenders alike can tweak the amount of grenadine, citrus, or whiskey—or experiment with different types of whiskey—to make the libation their own. We like to think that the recipe below is close to the original, but who knows? You can pretty much make it however you’d like.

Ward 8
2 oz rye whiskey
3/4 oz lemon juice
3/4 oz orange juice
1/2 oz grenadine

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add ice, and shake until chilled through. Strain into a coupe glass. Top with soda (or not).

And for a modern-day riff on the Ward 8...

Wards of Wisdom
Created By Eddie "Lucky" Campbell, Head Barman of Parliament in Dallas, TX.

1.5 oz Redemption Rye infused with cedar planks & leather
.75 oz Lemon juice
.75 oz Dry curaçao
.5 oz Grenadine
Orange peel and maraschino cherry, for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker tin. Add ice, and shake vigorously until chilled through. Strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish by skewering the orange peel and maraschino cherry.