The Ward Eight is a unique variation on a Sour. Some classic cocktails, like the Bronx, have become dinosaurs, and others, like the martini, have engendered incalculable variations. The Ward Eight is one old-timer that has not been ravaged by time. While the name may have one conjecturing a drink so potent that it was named for a mental ward, the history of the Ward Eight is colorful but rather sober and sedate.
In 1898, bartender Tom Hussion was hired by the Locke-Ober Café in Boston, and he brought with him many loyal followers. Among them were members of the Hendrick’s Club, a political club run by Democrat Martin Lomasney. Lomasney was running for representative in the Massachusetts General Court from Ward Eight that year, and the eve before the election, some club members at the bar asked Hussion to create a new drink to toast Lomasney’s imminent victory. Hussion may have merely added some grenadine to a Whiskey Sour and called it the Ward Eight, but the grenadine was just enough to change the character of the drink. Ironically, the newly elected Lomasney was a staunch Prohibitionist, and when the Noble Experiment arrived, the owner of the Locke-Ober sorrowfully closed the bar. The Ward Eight outlasted Prohibition and was deemed one of the 10 best cocktails of the year in 1934 by Esquire magazine. The Locke-Ober reopened its doors in the early 1950s and has been shaking up this sophisticated cocktail ever since.
A Ward Eight is always shaken. The cocktail may be garnished with a cherry or an orange or lemon slice for color, but these were omitted in the original. Rye was initially used, but bourbon seems to have taken its place as the liquor of choice.