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We're well into the long, cold, and dull stretch of winter that follows the holidays. And while some of my friends attempt a Dry January—skipping booze and filling their time with outdoor sports and brisk walks in the woods—I've tasked myself with a different personal challenge: coming up with the ideal warming cocktail. Heck, it even travels: This hot drink packs nicely in an old-school thermos, so you can bring it on those winter walks or to those frostbitten hockey games.
I love using citrus when it's in season, so my thoughts turned to the Ward 8, a lemon- and orange-accented drink created in the late 1890s in Boston—a place that knows its cold winters.
To make the Ward 8 work as a hot cocktail, a few tweaks are necessary. The traditional drink is made with lemon juice and orange juice, but since I wanted to heat the cocktail with boiling water, I needed to make sure it had a concentrated flavor that wasn't watered down by juice. The secret is to create an intense citrus-oil syrup, called an oleo-saccharum, which ensures that you have all the bright, zesty citrus flavor and none of the excess liquid. The name may be unfamiliar, but it's really easy to make: You just toss the citrus zest with sugar and muddle them together, letting the oils from the zest mingle and seep out over the course of several hours.
Once your oleo-saccharum is set, you'll fill your thermos with boiling water to heat it up. After that, the drink is pretty darn simple. It starts with rye—you want something on the spicy side, one with a lot of rye, rather than corn or malted barley, in the mash bill. I recommend Bulleit 95, though High West Double Rye is a good alternative. You'll add a little extra citrusy depth with some dry orange curaçao. Angostura bitters add some spice and keep the mixture from getting too sweet. Normally this cocktail would be made with sticky-sweet grenadine, but tart pomegranate juice adds the same rich flavor, plus a shot of brightness that brings the drink together.
It's a drink that warms you, maybe even to the point that you'll want to try out those snowshoes after all.
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