A cocktail from Boston, for Bostonians
Pore through the pages of any cocktail history tome and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a distinctive contribution to the art that is Boston’s and Boston’s alone. The Ward 8, however, is a drink that did originate here, specifically at the long-gone Locke-Ober restaurant on Winter Place (in the spot currently known as Yvonne’s).
Yes, there are other stories, but the most entertaining Boston folklore goes like this:
It was the end of the 1800s when Martin Lomasney, already a mover and shaker in Boston political circles for decades, won a coveted seat on the strength of voters in Ward 8, now more or less the South End and Roxbury. The resulting cocktail, the story goes, was allegedly first stirred and served at Lomasney’s victory dinner. As the famed political writer R.W. Apple Jr. wrote in a 2002 New York Times piece praising Locke-Ober:
From the start, it became a hangout for politicians; the State House is only a couple of blocks away. Martin Lomasney, a legendary local boss between the world wars, is reputed to have favored the place, and the Ward 8 cocktail—a whiskey sour with a few dashes of grenadine added—was invented at Locke’s for some of his henchmen one lively night before an election.
The Ward 8 is still served, but the preferred drink at Locke’s over the years has been the dry martini, served in ample measure, which the Boston-based novelist George V. Higgins, a longtime habitué, christened “loud-mouth soup.”
The drink became a local fixture and in 1934 earned a spot on Esquire magazine’s Top Ten Cocktails of the Year chart. The Ward 8, the magazine reported, “is a fine drink, dry and refreshing. But it’s not a cocktail that will alter your drinking habits, nor is it a shortcut to bliss. It is a drink that offers solace to a scorched palate if made properly.”
Generations later, in 2008, local cocktail maven Brother Cleve remixed the Ward 8, honoring more recent history from out of state in doing so. The Ninth Ward, as Cleve coined the spinoff, was created for the annual Tales of the Cocktail convention in New Orleans. The Ninth Ward, of course, was the section of the city most damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“I wanted to create a drink for the event that would have some sort of New Orleans and Boston connection,” Cleve said at the time. “My idea was to take the Ward 8, the best-known drink created in Boston, and turn it into a tropical cocktail for New Orleans.”
The Ninth Ward:
- 1 1/2 oz Bourbon (Eagle Rare 10 Year)
- 3/4 oz Falernum (Velvet)
- 3/4 oz Lime Juice
- 1/2 oz St. Germain
- 2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Original calls for Bulleit Bourbon and Fee’s Falernum.
Parts of this throwback have been previously published by Dirty Old Boston. This Dirty Old Boston feature is a collaboration between DigBoston, the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and Dirty Old Boston. For more local history visit binjonline.org and dirtyoldboston.com.