Patriots' Day Recap: Boston Cocktails

I did promise to put up these recipes, didn't I? Well, I'm a man of my word. Enjoy the two most Bostonian of all Boston cocktails!

Ward Eight
2 oz. Rye Whiskey
3/4 oz. Lemon Juice
3/4 oz. Orange Juice
Grenadine to Taste
Shake, strain, and serve up. Garnish with a tiny Massachusetts flag stuck through a maraschino cherry, if you can find such a thing.

Periodista
1 1/2 oz. Dark Rum
1/2 oz. Orange Liqueur
1/2 oz. Apricot Liqueur
1/2 oz. Lime Juice
Shake, strain, and serve up. Garnish with a lime wheel, a lime wedge, or nothing at all (there's quite a bit of lime in there already).

These drinks are "Bostonian" in very different ways - though both, in my view, have a better claim to that title than the I-guess-technically-it-counts Boston Sour, Boston Sidecar, and so on. I've not been able to find any information on the pedigree of those old drinks to bear out the choice of namesake. These two, on the other hand...

The Ward Eight has been around for more than a hundred years, and was probably invented at Locke-Ober. There is some disagreement on whether or not to include the orange juice, and on whether or not to add seltzer on top. There is some speculation that its alleged date of invention was too early for grenadine to have been readily available; there is counter-speculation that the scarcity of the signature ingredient was precisely what made the drink so special when it was first concocted. There is the awkward fact that the man in whose honor the cocktail was invented, and after whose ward it was named, tried and failed to get people to call it something else for years afterwards. 

In short, there is a lot of mystery surrounding this drink. But that's as it should be. Old drinks, if they're good, tend to acquire myths. If you're interested in a deeper dive into the history, I highly recommend Stephanie Schorrow's (extensive) treatment in Drinking Boston.

For our purposes, what matters most is that the Ward Eight has stood unchallenged as Boston's emissary to the cocktail-drinkers of the world for something on the order of a century. It's definitely ours, and it's what we're best known for. My preferred recipe matches this one from David Wondrich, but particularly in light of the drink's muddled history, you should feel quite free to play around with the proportions.

As for the Periodista, its history is in many ways quite the opposite. It's a young recipe, celebrating its twenty-first birthday this year (presumably by ordering a few rounds of itself). We know that it was invented at Chez Henri in Cambridge. It's a local drink, ubiquitous in greater Boston but unknown to the rest of the world. Our delicious little secret.

There's a lot more to the story, but I won't spoil the fun here. Devin Hahn, the man who first figured out where this drink came from, has written a gorgeous narrative of his journey to the truth in twenty-three parts. You can binge your way through it in an hour or two; if you're even slightly considering that, I promise you it's worth it. The story begins here.

My sincerest thanks to everyone who came to the Patriots' Day party for an in-person lesson on these drinks! Stay tuned for more announcements of public events! (And one other major announcement coming soon - mysterious, eh?)

Sidecar

Sidecar

4 parts (2 oz.) Courvoisier cognac
1 part (1/2 oz.) Cointreau
1 part (1/2 oz.) fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Sugar rim

This is where that lemon juice I mentioned went. The Sidecar may well be my favorite of the classic recipes. It’s also one of a very small number of drinks I consider to be “solved” - that is, I’ve found a way to make them that I like so much, I see no reason to deviate.

Courvoisier is far and away the best cocktail cognac. Hennessy, its closest cousin in terms of quality, has a harsh bite to it that relegates it to use in brandy/rye and brandy/bourbon cocktails, which are already covering a parallel trait in the whiskey. Courvoisier retails in the low thirties.

Cointreau is an orange liqueur with a neutral base. Most bars use it for their Sidecars. If you have your own orange liqueur, feel free to substitute it. Luxardo’s triple sec, Solerno blood orange liqueur, and the inimitable Grand Marnier all make pleasant Sidecar variations, although you should note that the substitution is not as easy in most drinks, particularly in the case of Grand Marnier. (Thus, “inimitable.”)

With a drink like this, so simple and with so few ingredients, always use fresh lemon juice. I tell people a drink is never better than its worst ingredient. Sometimes you can get away with a weak link, if it’s a bit player in the act. Here you can’t.

I recommend shaking for the Sidecar. It’s advisable for all drinks with fruit juices in them, to be sure everything distributes evenly. The bit of water from the melting ice also opens up the flavor of certain spirits, including brandy. All that said, you can stir this one without too much worry.

The eternal Sidecar question is, “Sugared rim?” The answer may be yes or no. Certainly you shouldn’t be afraid of it. The sugar is there to answer the sour of the fresh lemon. The drink works without it, but sometimes you’re in the right mood. If you’re worried you’ll look girly drinking out of a sugar-rimmed glass, stick to Old Fashioneds until you’re secure in your masculinity. The rest of you, keep reading.

To sugar a glass, pour some powdered or granulated sugar into a small dish or saucer. Please be sure your dish is larger than the glass you intend to coat, and your sugar isn’t in clumps. Chill the glass in the freezer for a few minutes. When you take it out, there will be condensation on it. Overturn the glass into the dish of sugar, and give it a few turns. The sugar will stick to the wet rim of the glass. Something similar may be accomplished by filling the glass temporarily with ice cubes to chill it, or by running a bit of lemon around the rim. So long as it’s wet, the sugar will stick.

This works any time you need to sugar a glass, or salt one, if you’re making Margaritas. Assuming all your dishes and glassware are clean, you can even return the leftover sugar to its container when you’re finished. Or revel in the decadence of pitching it. Up to you.