Drink of the Week: The Ward 8

Ward 8The next presidential/congressional election isn’t until next year, but politics is in the air as Republicans debate and the president makes his case. All things considered with the state of our union these days, that’s reason enough to take to strong drink, classic or otherwise.

The Ward 8 hails from the fine city of Boston and appears to have been somehow involved in a late 19th century election during the period we now call the Gilded Age. Many believe that our current time period kind of rhymes with that time when money ruled the day, and that’s all I’m going to say right now. As for the drink, it’s pretty tasty and a refreshing repast after you’ve been walking precincts or taking whatever your personal political poison may be.

The Ward 8

2 ounces rye or Canadian whiskey
1/2-3/4 ounces fresh lemon juice
1/2-3/4 ounce orange juice
1 teaspoon grenadine syrup
1 maraschino cherry (optional garnish)
1 Massachusetts flag (extremely optional inedible garnish)

This one’s easy, once you’ve finished squeezing your juices. (Vastly less filthy a process than I’ve just made it sound.) Simply combine the whiskey, juice, and the teaspoon of grenadine in a cocktail shaker and shake it down like a corrupt pol, pour into a chilled martini glass. Add a cherry and if you’re a resident of the Bay State who takes such matters seriously, add that flag if you must. Just don’t try it eating it along with the cherry.

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I tried this drink with both more and less juice and found that it worked fairly well at all levels, but I lean towards the idea that more may be more in this case. I also ran out of oranges during one go-round an used tangelo juice instead. It wasn’t half bad.

  

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Drink of the Week: The Whiskey Sour

whiskey sourSours are an entire family of cocktail which mostly utilize some combination of lemon juice and sugar. (The sour mix used by many bartenders is, in my experience, slightly revolting.). The Latin American favorite, the pisco sour, is probably a better known drink in many quarters these days, but the whiskey sour has been one of the standard cocktails since cocktails have become popular. Oddly enough, it’s possible that both of these cocktail favorites actually began in Peru.

The Whiskey Sour

2 ounces whiskey (bourbon, rye, Canadian, etc.)
1/2-1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
About 1/2 of an egg white  (semi-optional)
Maraschino cherry or orange slice (optional garnishes)

Dissolve sugar in whiskey and lemon juice and add egg white.  Shake vigorously. You should see a light froth on top of the liquid.

Note that I haven’t mentioned ice at this point. It is important to keep the whiskey, lemon juice and egg white at near room temperature in order for the egg to properly emulsify. Once you’ve shaken the liquid thoroughly, however, it is time to add ice and shake again very vigorously. Strain into a chilled martini, rocks or, if you’re really serious about it, a sour glass.  Add garnishes if you’ve got them.

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Two provisos. One — the “sour” in “whiskey sour” is a serious kind of sour and thus, this drink is not for tartphobes.  Even as an increasingly hardy beverage connoisseur, I found the pucker factor on my whiskey sours to be a bit much, especially without the egg white.

Which brings us to the second proviso. I’m sure some reading this will react strongly against the use of raw egg whites, which can be a bit controversial because of the very small but not quite nonexistent risk of salmonella poisoning. If you’re especially concerned for whatever reason — and if your immune system is compromised or your health is generally shaky, I would be somewhat concerned — you might consider using pasteurized or powdered egg whites or just making the drink without it.

However, be aware that the risk of contaminated egg whites, especially if they are reasonably fresh and kept refrigerated, is actually fairly infinitesimal; whites are less vulnerable than yolks to bacteria and the overall incidence of salmonella has been going down. Also, though I can’t speak to the science of the point, bartenders argue that the alcohol and lemon juice will tend to kill any dangerous microscopic critters. In any case, I’ve been drinking this stuff all week and, aside from being extremely tired of the flavor of lemon juice, I’m doing just fine.

  

Drink of the Week: Highballs

Because it’s the start of the Memorial Day Weekend, traditionally a big time for picnics and barbecues, we’re going to keep it extra simple this week. So simple a “recipe” in the usual sense isn’t even required.

highball gin and tonicHighballs are not any one particular drink but any cocktail comprised of an alcoholic base and a much larger proportion of some non-alcoholic beverage. Ordinarily, we wouldn’t bother with a lot of highballs because there’s not much point in giving you a recipe for, say, rum and coke or a 7 and 7 (just in case you’re extremely new to booze, that’s 7-Up and Seagram’s 7 whiskey).  Your basic highball is 1-2 ounces of booze, a mixer to taste — about five or six ounces, maybe, and some ice. You can throw in a garnish of your preference, like a lime or lemon wedge, if you want to get fancy.

We’re making an exception this weekend because highballs really are the easiest cocktails to make if you’re going to be outdoors and away from the conveniences of home. Yes, it’s possible to drag your cocktail shaker, measuring shot glass, plenty of ice cubes (which you’ll be quickly tossing), assorted bitters, garnishes, and — most tricky of all– the appropriate type of glasses with you on a picnic. However, we’ve tried it and had fun with it, but it was no picnic. Yes, you can use plastic champagne glasses in place of martini glasses and it won’t be bad, but it’s still a lot of work, those plastic champagne glasses cost a few bucks, and they will never be the same as an actual chilled glass right out of  your freezer.

Of course, cocktail snobs look a bit downward on many of the most popular highballs — you’ll never see James Bond ordering a Jack Daniels and Coke, but then again you’ll never see him gnoshing on a Hoffy’s or Hebrew National at a picnic, either. Nevertheless, there are many beverages in the highball family with a degree of nobility that Bond and even snootier folks have been known to favor. For starters, no one should look down on you for your Scotch or bourbon and soda. (Depending on liquor laws and enforcement in your community, however, police officers may feel otherwise.)

If you really want to kick it old-old-old school, try taking some ginger ale along with the usual cola and lemon lime sodas. Dry ginger ale (not too heavy on the ginger) was the mixer of choice during prohibition, when most liquor was not of high quality; it still works very nicely. Canada Dry and Canadian whiskey was our grandmother’s beverage of choice and we think the old lady kind of knew what she was doing. (We love heavier, more gingeriffic, ginger ales like Vernor’s and ginger beers, and they are frequent cocktail ingredients, but they might not be as reliable mixers in a simple picnic setting.)

Better yet, the immortal gin and tonic is one highball you can knock back with pride, and not just because it’s a favorite of English aristocracy, as seen on “Masterpiece Theater.” Even back when we were young and foolish and appreciated neither gin nor tonic water, somehow the combination of the two of them made one of the delightful warm weather alcoholic beverages we’d fall back on, and we still love them. An especially good version of this uses Hendrick’s Gin, a terrific mid-priced premium gin made in Scotland — most gins are strictly English — that uses a cucumber infusion. As for garnishes, the usual lime wedge will work just fine, but a slice of cucumber stolen from whoever’s making salad really kicks this drink to life. Vodka and tonic is obviously another popular choice here.

Screwdrivers — orange juice and vodka or gin — are impossible to mess up — unless you put in more than 1-2 ounces of  booze, in which you case you probably don’t really care what it tastes like anyway. And while a gin or vodka and tonic won’t actually cure malaria with the tiny amount of quinine that it contains, we are fairly certain the vitamin C in the orange juice will be sufficient to ward off scurvy. Trust us, nothing can ruin a picnic faster than a bad case of scurvy.

  

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