By Clair McLafferty
People are really territorial about classic whiskey cocktails. If you’re having a conversation about Old Fashioneds or Ward 8s, you might as well accept that you have a different recipe than the person you’re talking with. Out of this riffraff, we’ve come up with three cocktails we regularly enjoy.
You may never hear me say this again, but Prohibition is to thank for the Boulevardier’s creation. Since hooch was illegal, many bartenders fled the country to practice elsewhere. In Europe, they found a variety of spirits they’d never had available, and created some pretty magical drinks.
This particular libation is a Negroni variation that substitutes bourbon for gin.
As the Negroni is a variation of an Americano highball, the Boulevardier is twice removed from its origin. This bitter – and absolutely delicious – cocktail will chase away any hesitations you have about enjoying the warmer weather.
Note: nose and palate depend heavily on the types of vermouth and bourbon used.
My favorite combination is Cocchi Vermouth di Turino and W. L. Weller Special Reserve.
Nose: Orange, exotic spice
Palate: Rich body with a sweet, herbal front palate that fades into peppery, savory spice. The finish is long and bitter with hints of leather and a slight bite.
- 1 oz Campari
- 1 oz sweet vermouth
- 1 oz bourbon
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir vigorously for 17-25 seconds or until chilled through. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a flamed orange peel.
The Ward 8
Born out of a Boston election party (or so the story goes), this cocktail was first created as a whiskey sour made with grenadine instead of simple syrup. It became so popular that, in 40ish years, over 500 recipes for the cocktail were documented.
If this recipe doesn’t strike your fancy, tweak it until it does. Chances are that it’s been made before.
Nose: Citrus, ripe red fruit
Palate: Medium-bodied with a sweet and tangy front. This transitions smoothly into citrus and vanilla on the mid-palate. It finishes surprisingly dry.
1 tsp – 0.5 oz grenadine
.5 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
.75 oz freshly squeezed orange juice
2 oz bourbon
Combine all ingredients in a shaker tin. Add ice and shake vigorously for 17-25 seconds or until chilled through. Strain into chilled coupe.
The Old Fashioned
Like the Ward 8, the Old Fashioned’s history is difficult to pin down. In fact, so many origin stories exist that entire books have been written on the subject. We know a few things for sure – the Old Fashioned is modeled on the Great American Cock-Tail template of bitters, sugar, water and booze. It was probably created early in the 19th century, and most likely didn’t contain muddled fruit.
From there, little is certain. Since so many recipes exist for this singular cocktail, the garnish, type of sugar and even the type of whiskey used are uncertain. As with the Ward 8, customize and experiment to find your favorite recipe.
Nose (for below recipe): Bright orange fruit
Palate: Full-bodied with a dark, sweet front, rich caramel and cinnamon mid-palate.
Finishes dry, though with a slight lingering burn.
2 dashes old fashioned aromatic bitters
1 dash orange bitters
1 tsp rich brown sugar simple syrup (ratio 2:1 sugar to water)
2 oz bourbon
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir vigorously for 17-25 seconds depending on the proof of the spirit (higher proof spirits will need to be stirred longer). Strain into a chilled Old Fashioned glass and garnish with an orange peel.
Clair is a freelance writer and assistant bar manager at Octane Coffee + Bar. When she’s not working, she can usually be found nerding out on trashy sci-fi, playing with her puppy, or researching cocktail history. Check out her other writing at clairmclafferty.com.