Drinking In the 7th Ward
A new Boston classic with a history all its own.
- 1½ ounces Old Overholt rye whiskey
- ½ ounce Sherry (house blend)
- ½ ounce cranberry "grenadine"
- ½ ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ ounce fresh-squeezed orange juice
- 1 dash Orange bitters
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
Build in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake. Double strain. Serve down in a chilled rocks glass. Express an orange peel over the top and sides, and then throw it the fuck away.
Sully clocked in at six foot seven, and he was thin enough to look fully collapsible. His eyes were sunken, and his hair had been gray since age 18. At 23, he could pass for the far end of 30. He considered himself a musician and a poet, but he paid his bills as a bartender.
He'd learned how to bartend at an oyster bar in Scituate that was known for its Jack and Cokes and its bar fights.
Just after 9 AM, Sully got a text from his bar manager. It said that food and drinks were available to anyone who showed up at the restaurant where he had worked until last night.
Yesterday the place had gone out of business. The Chef, a guy named Homer, wanted to clean out the walk-in.
"We gotta clen house! Anyone who wants eats and treats come back on by! OPEN BAR!"
Since he no longer had a job, he decided to go for the free food.
On entry, he saw his bar manager Toni behind the stick. There was also a small assortment of former employees, including Prudy, Rose, and their friends. Most everyone was clustered around the community table with snack plates piled high.
Katie, or "Wisco," as he called her (much to her annoyance), appeared asleep at the bar. He approached the sleeping figure and Toni as quietly as he could.
"Care for a drink?" Toni whispered, then thought better of it, "Oh, that's right! No booze for you! I mean, unless that's changed?"
"Nope. Still all about the dry life," he said, "What's up with her?"
"Overindulgence," Toni said with a smirk.
Sully shrugged, "I'll take a plain tonic water."
"Oh my lord, that's disgusting," said Toni.
"What? I like it. Plus, the quinine is good for my muscle spasms."
"Oh? Can't say I've heard of that one," said Toni as they gunned full a large red plastic tumbler with tonic water.
"Slept on an uneven hardwood floor in Beacon Hill last night," he said with a stretch, "I woke up to a wicked charley horse."
"I didn't even know tonic for muscles was a thing. I can only stomach tonic with a healthy dose of gin." He passed Sully the glass. "Lime?"
"Nope." He gulped the bitter-sweet fizzy water down.
At that, Katie stirred with a low and persistent guttural moan. It increased in volume as she raised her head. Without stopping, she put the half-empty footed glass coffee mug on the bar in front of her to her mouth. The groan echoed against the glass before it stopped as she sipped.
"What in sam hill was that?" said Sully, wide-eyed.
"Eeeeet maaaaaaaakeeees meeee heeeead feeeeeel beeeeetttter," she rumbled out between sips of her cup of Golden Unicorn.
She swallowed, exhaled, and said quietly, "What are you drinking, tall person?"
Sully rested his empty glass on the bar and passed it to Toni. Toni refilled it. "Tonic water. Wisco."
"No dog hair?" she scowled.
"Hair of the dog," said Sully. "I'm a teetotaler."
"A tea-toddler?" Said Katie, "Whazzat?"
"Dude, who doesn't drink alcohol."
"Aren't you a bartender?" she paused, "Yes! You are bartender. How can you work in a bar but don't drink?"
Sully sipped from his refill, "On my Mom's side, we descend from Harriet Beacher Stowe, and my dad's side... well, they try not to touch the stuff. In general, alcohol isn't big for us. As for the job, I grew up in Scituate. I didn't go to college. It was either become a bartender or a rock star." he sipped, "I'm just doing this until I open for Taylor Swift next week."
"Really?!" she asked.
"No!" He replied.
"I can't tell if you're joking," she frowned. "So, you've never had alcohol?"
"Not even a try?"
"How can you make up drinks and stuff?" she asked.
"Smell works." he started, "I usually research a standard recipe to death and just sort of conceptualize it. Plus, there are lots of other people who want to taste it. I use them to tell me how to readjust.
Toni piped in, "Sully created the Ward 7-6."
"A lot of people order that one," said Katie, "I don't remember what that one is."
Toni had already started building the drink. He poured it and spritzed orange oil on it, sweeping the peel up and down the outside of the vessel. He pushed it towards Katie.
She started by smelling it. She was cautious and handled it carefully. She eventually took a sip.
"Hm. Orangy." at that, Toni took back the drink to Katie's surprise. They then grabbed a highball glass and popped open a can of Polar Mandarin seltzer. They poured the seltzer and the cocktail into the glass and then topped it with ice.
"Give this a go. I think it's more your current speed," said Toni.
Katie cautiously gave it another sip.
"Oh wow! This kinda' tastes like that drink chef likes. What is it? Dry Orange something?"
"Orange Dry," said Sully, "Yeah, that's kind of what I wound up shooting for."
"Interesting. So you made it taste like soda?"
"Well. Not really. That wasn't the original goal. It's a cocktail that's supposed to be local, and a little bit this place. I started with a classic cocktail with local roots. Something called a Ward 8 -"
"Ward 8?" Katie interrupted. "Isn't that the restaurant over by North Station?"
"Gastro-pub," Sully answered. "Yeah. That place is both in the 8th ward, and it's also a namecheck to the cocktail."
"What is the ward 8, or um, 8th ward thingy?"
"That's the voting district. The drink was supposedly created to celebrate a political win by a politician from Boston's Ward 8."
Katie contemplated, "Why didn't they name it after him?"
"Probably because he was a teetotaler. Like me."
"No drinking," she grunted. "I see a theme." Katie looked up at him thoughtfully.
"Yeah, that was part of it," he started smiling. "I like the idea of a classic cocktail that was created in Boston for a guy who didn't drink."
"Wait. What qualifies as a classic cocktail? Is that like a cocktail that is awesome? Like someone drinks it, and just says, 'Yeahhhhh that's f'ing classic!'"
At that, Sully cocked his head. "Um, no. Do you think they just have a guy testing drinks and labeling them as 'classic'?"
"I have no idea! That's why I'm asking you 'Ta-lly.'" Katie sneered. She placed her head back down on the bar.
"Um yeah," he ignored her attempt at nicknaming him. "As I understand it, the classic cocktails were developed between the first-ever cocktail book, around 1887, and go to 1933 when prohibition ended. Like, these were all drinks that survived through the first rise and fall of the cocktail."
"Wait. Cocktails didn't exist before 1887?" Katie's voice went unnaturally high.
"Well, I'm sure they existed," Sully frowned. "Sort of, but they weren't something people considered a whole… I don't know… a thing? Like these were the first drinks made with intention. They had recipes. That was kind of the first time you could go into a bar and order a 'Martini,' and that meant a specific thing that was recognized and understood."
"Wow. I had no idea." She sneered, "Is 'Sex on the Beach' a classic?"
Katie sensed his impatience and tried to bring things back. "Okay. So. Ward 8. It's a cocktail named by a teetotaler. Please continue."
"Named after a political district. Supposedly meant to celebrate a teetotaler. Yes," he paused to think. "Um, well, it's one of the only classics that's said to have originated in Boston. The story is that it was invented at a place called Locke-Ober. Over by Park Street."
"Should I go there to get one?" Katie interjected.
"Well, it's called Yvonne's now. But yeah. It's expensive, but it's nice -" Katie cut him off.
"What's in this again?" she took a deeper sip.
"I'm getting there," he glared at her, took a breath. "It starts with rye whiskey."
"Like the bread?" she quipped.
"Same grain. Different thing." Sully sighed, "Just an FYI if you keep interrupting, this will take forever. How about questions at the end?"
"Fiiiiiiine." she bellowed.
"So rye whiskey has a tendency to be spicy. Not like hot spicy, but like peppercorn spicy. But, like Boston is known for being kinda' bland, so I picked rye that was pretty bland. Old Overholt. It's not bad per se, but it won't overpower the other things." He paused and waited to see if Katie would jump in.
"Okay! Bland rye. Then Yvonne's has their version with sherry, which seemed smart, since Yvonne's is in the same building where the original recipe came from. It seemed like the right way to go. Oh, um, sherry. It's a Spanish wine that has been aged with liquor in it, and it has this kinda' bready and nutty thing going for it. Yvonne's recipe uses a sherry with Amontillado and Oloroso aspects - so it's drier and yet also has a strong flavor. I wanted some of that, but not too much, so I used the Lustau Palo Cortado, but I also blended it with another, cheaper sherry. But, get this, I ALSO used a dash or two of Holland House cooking sherry!" At that part, he laughed hard.
"Was that a joke?" said Katie. "Shoot! You said no questions."
Sully composed himself. "Ah. Yeah. Well, cooking sherry is usually considered garbage. It also has salt added to it because it's pretty much only supposed to be used for cooking."
"Wait, there's alcohol in cooking wine?" Katie broke the rules. Again.
"Oh yeah! But also salt, which makes it hard to drink. But a little bit of salt also helps cocktails kind of pop. You know how people salt watermelon?
"People put salt on watermelon?!" Katie couldn't stop.
"Yes. People do that because it kinda' makes sweet sweeter, but it also kind of gets rid of bitterness. But it also helps out with the next steps; it strengthens the citrus flavors of the orange and lemon juices that also go in it. It also changes the texture of carbonation, making it less fizzy. It breaks up the bubbles."
Katie raised her hand, "Um. What's in it so far?"
Toni snapped, "Rye. Sherry. Salt. Lemon. OJ. Now grenadine and bitters."
"Like cherry juice?" she wined.
"What did I say about questions!" Sully snapped.
"Sorry," Katie frowned.
"Grenadine is not cherry juice! It's Pomegranate syrup…." Katie started to open her mouth, but Sully shot her a side-eye. She shut it. "Grenadine is supposed to be sweet and tart, not unlike a syrupy cranberry juice cocktail. So we make a sort of fake grenadine with a reduction of cranberry juice cocktail that's been sweetened with natural fruit juices. So, it's kinda' like real grenadine, but a little more complex. It's sweet and tart and very local."
Katie coughed aggressively.
"Yes?" he acknowledged her reluctantly.
"What do you mean by a reduction?"
"Slowly boil it off on low heat until it gets concentrated and syrupy."
"Thank you." Katie nodded.
"Last, the bitters add some complexity and depth. It makes it all taste more interesting. The orange bitters ups the orange flavor. I mean, the main thing that separates this from just being a whisky sour is the OJ, so I wanted to make that more prominent. Then the Ango makes it all more interesting. It amps up some of the more interesting flavors from the sherry. It's like when you add Worcestershire sauce to a Bloody Mary."
Katie raised her pointer finger.
"Holy shit! How do you have a job here!?" Sully then reconsidered. "No. Wait. I'm sorry. How did you have a job here? Now, what is your question."
"What's that sauce? In the bloody marys?" she eeked.
"Ask Chef. It doesn't matter," Sully ran to his finish line. "What's important is that this cocktail is more about the rye and orange and grenadine, so everything else kind of plays to those flavors and aromas, as for the Orange Dry thing. The original, original, recipe is kind of a mess. There are all sorts of variations on the original. Some of those original recipes include soda water. Since everyone around here drinks Polar seltzer like it's fuckin' crack, I made sure this base would work well with Polar Mandarin seltzer. When I first made that variation for Chef, he realized that, with seltzer, it kind of tasted like Polar Orange Dry. He drinks that by the bucket already, so yeah, it went on the menu. I usually recommend upselling the Putnam rye for the base if someone wants this straight. I usually suggest it on the rocks with soda water and my original recipe with Overholt for new drinkers. The standard is Overholt because that's the most approachable, and, well, it's also the cheapest."
"Seems complicated," she paused. "Are you ready for questions?"
"Sure," Sully relented.
"Why is it called Ward 7-6? Why not 7.6 or 76? Is it a combination of the sixth and seventh versions you tried?"
"Oh! No! That's the ward and precinct where Chef grew up. Ward 7. Precinct 6. This is... was... his place, so that's my way of naming this variation of the drink after him."
"Huh. Great." She sipped, "I like it with the soda water."
"No more questions?"
"Nope. You can stop talking now. I'll finish this and take another nap," Katie yawned. "Thanks, former coworker."
With that, she didn't even finish the drink. She put her head on the bar and fell back asleep.
More in this Series
A Drink for Wilted Mournings - The perfect drink for a garbage day.
About the Creator
Obsessively thinking about the intersections of food, entertainment, commerce, human nature, and the end of the world.
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