This “Lost” Drink Is a Favorite with Aficionados
The Last Word Cocktail has had an erratic history — which is fitting, I suppose, for drink that was born (surreptitiously) during Prohibition.
It was created sometime in the 1920s at the Detroit Athletic Club — by a vaudeville performer, not a bartender — but didn’t become particularly popular (maybe because of that bathtub gin they used?) The drink was all but forgotten until 1951, when Ted Saucier described it in a book about cocktails called Bottoms Up, reintroducing this cocktail to a whole new audience. But most of his readers promptly forgot about it, and the drink was lost again.
It was rediscovered about 8 years ago, when Murray Stenson (of Seattle’s Zig Zag Café) saw the recipe while flipping through Saucier’s Bottoms Up. He put it on the cocktail menu at Zig Zag, where it became an instant hit. After its successful (re)launch in the Pacific Northwest, The Last Word made its way to New York — and then to cocktail glasses around the globe. It’s still not widely known to the general public, but it’s a drink that cocktail aficionados cherish for its pungent, rich flavor.
The Last Word is a refreshing drink with a bit of a bite — pleasant in warm weather, but with enough substance to stand up to crisp fall evenings. And because it helps sharpen the palate, it’s one of the best pre-dinner drinks I know.
Give it a try, and I promise it won’t be the last one you have — you’ll return to it again and again.
Recipe: The Last Word Cocktail
There’s one downside to this cocktail: It requires two pricey ingredients — green Chartreuse and Maraschino liqueur — that aren’t in most home bars. Chartreuse we’ve used before (in the Champs Élysées Cocktail back in July). The other semi-obscure ingredient, Maraschino, is a bittersweet, colorless liqueur with a slight almond flavor; it has nothing to do with the garish red maraschino cherries that we use as a garnish in cocktails or on banana splits.
If you don’t want to invest in these ingredients, you might want to try The Last Word at a restaurant or cocktail lounge that has them on hand (not all will). If the bartender doesn’t know how to make it (many won’t), the recipe is easy: equal parts of gin, green Chartreuse, Maraschino liqueur, and fresh lime juice. Once you taste this cocktail, though, I think you’ll agree that it’s worth purchasing the ingredients so you can have it at home.
This recipe serves one, and takes about 5 minutes to prepare. If you want to make a heftier drink than my recipe produces, simply scale the measurements of each ingredient up to ¾ ounce, or even a full ounce. (That last makes a pretty stiff drink, however. As you’ll recall from our discussion about the Champs Élysées Cocktail, green Chartreuse is 110 proof).
- ½ ounce gin (I like Beefeaters for making cocktails, although Plymouth is particularly nice in this drink)
- ½ ounce green Chartreuse (the yellow kind won’t work here)
- ½ ounce Maraschino liqueur (the Luxardo brand is widely available and of excellent quality)
- ½ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
- lime twist or slice for garnish (optional)
- Combine all ingredients (except garnish) in a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice. Shake vigorously (20 to 30 seconds) until the drink is cold.
- Strain into a cocktail glass (preferably chilled).
- Although this drink is often served ungarnished, you may choose to add a lime slice, wheel, or twist.
- Because there’s citrus in this drink, you should shake it (the citrus will make the drink cloudy, so the bubbles you generate by shaking won’t matter, and shaking is the best way to incorporate citrus into a cocktail). For more info on when to stir and when to shake, see Cocktail Basics.
- Robert Hess has a nice video with instructions on how to mix The Last Word.
- Maraschino liqueur is made from Marasca cherries, including the crushed cherry pits.
- This liqueur was developed at a Dominican monastery in Venetian Dalmatia during the 16th century. It wasn’t named “Maraschino” until about 200 years later, when industrial production began.
- Napoleon Bonaparte was a big fan of Maraschino liqueur, as were Czar Nicholas I and Britain’s George IV.
Farewell to the Summer Sippin’ Series
This summer we’ve been featuring a different summer-appropriate cocktail each week during our Summer Sippin’ Series. But we’ll soon be back to our normal (monthly) cocktail post schedule — at least for a while.
We’ve had so much fun with the series — and received such great feedback — that I’m pretty sure I’ll be doing it again next summer. How about “Son of Summer Sippin’ Series”? There’s a whole world of cocktails out there, and we’ve barely scratched the surface!
The drinks we’ve tried this summer have been terrific. We started the series in May with a primer on Cocktail Basics, following up with the Mojito Cocktail.
In June we mixed the Tom Collins, the Sloe Gin Fizz, the Bellini, and the Gimlet.
In July we made the Betsy Ross Cocktail, the Champs Élysées, the Tequila Sunrise, and the first of several Tiki-themed cocktails, Planter's Punch. We also learned how to make our own Homemade Grenadine.
In August we started off with the king of Tiki, the The Zombie. Then we featured the Fog Cutter Cocktail, the Singapore Sling, the Piña Colada, and the Bermuda Rum Swizzle.
And now in September, we’re wrapping up the series with The Last Word.
Which will be the last word about cocktails on Kitchen Riffs until October — when our next monthly cocktail post arrives.
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