The Ward Eight is a famous cocktail created in Boston that is considered a classic. But despite its reputation, it never completely convinced me. I see two problems with the Ward Eight. First orange juice is a difficult ingredient in cocktails. Orange does not have the acidity of lemon or lime, and often fails to balance the sweetness of the other ingredients. Then the drink also includes grenadine which is another problematic ingredient. I am not even talking about fake commercial grenadine which does not contain an ounce of pomegranate juice. Even good quality grenadine can easily take over a drink if you are not careful. And when combined with orange juice… Well let’s just say that even though the Ward Eight is a decent cocktail, I feel sad to use a good bottle of rye in this drink because most of its qualities are shadowed by the other ingredients.
I tried a few versions of the Ward Eight including this one from PDT that uses pomegranate molasses for the grenadine and was left feeling underwhelmed.
I made a couple more cocktails with my homemade elderflower cordial. First I absolutely had to try Sam Ross’ Sunflower again. It’s a variation of one of my favorite cocktails, the Corpse Reviver No. 2, with elderflower replacing Lillet. I used pastis but use absinthe if you have it. I keep it in a little perfume mister which is great for drinks like this one that just call for a rinse.
The cocktail is crisp and light, but also full of flavor from the interplay of the elderflower with the botanicals of the pastis and the orange of the Cointreau. Really wonderful.
After making a cordial from wild elderflowers, for my first drink I decided to make a Far Eastern Gimlet. It’s a very simple cocktail based on the classic Gimlet where Rose’s lime juice is replaced with lemon juice and elderflower cordial, plus a dash of Angostura bitters (another well-known bartender ketchup…! I know, I know…). Originally the drink was created at the Merchant Hotel in Belfast, and it was later tweaked by Maks Pazuniak (including the dash of bitters). It has a typical Gimlet profile with a subtle elderflower flavor. It’s nice but may be a little too simple. It’s not quite unforgettable, but if you are a Gimlet fan you will like this version for sure. Trying different gins would be a good idea since the flavor is already subtle, although I would stay with a gin that is juniper-light.
Shortly after it was launched in 2007, Saint Germain became all the rage and I used it a bit until I got tired of it after going through a couple of bottles. It’s not that it’s a bad product, but at the time it seemed that a disproportionate number of new drinks coming from bartenders with little imagination involved St Germain. A lot of these drinks tend to have a similar flavor profile and can be slightly on the sweet side. St Germain got nicknamed “bartender ketchup” which sounds about right – it is really a solution of facility. When you have a drink that is interesting but is not quite there yet – just add a bar spoon or too of this magical ingredient and it will make everything taste better…