Getting the Last Word
Rejuvenating forgotten classics is a favorite bartender past-time. They comb old tomes in search of deserving recipes, then return their discoveries to modern glory. The Last Word is one such worthy cocktail.
As the story goes, Murray Stenson of the Zig Zag Café in Seattle was searching for ways to use unusual ingredients when he came across the Last Word in a 1952 edition of Ted Saucier’s cocktail book, Bottoms Up! The drink—made with gin, maraschino liqueur, Green Chartreuse and lime juice—fit the bill. The cocktail soon spread to bars down the West Coast, then New York and beyond. Kansas City’s own are certainly in on it—Justus Drugstore’s winter menu features one made with Death’s Door gin and garnished with a house-made brandied cherry.
But I’d forgotten about the drink until I picked up How to Booze: Exquisite Cocktails and Unsound Advice. It’s not my kind of book, as I don’t agree that occasionally getting “blackout, train-wreck, curb-retching, wake up-where-the-*-am-I drunk” is a “pleasant little treat to dole out to yourself.” I guess that’s where the unsound advice part comes in. Anyway, I am at least grateful to the authors for including the Last Word among their recipes.
Their version makes a bigger drink than I usually want while folding laundry on a Tuesday night at home, though, so I searched out Stenson’s own recipe on Imbibe Magazine’s web site. The results are beguilingly herbaceous, a bit citrusy and absolutely tasty. You can watch Stenson making one, courtesy of The Seattle Times. As he says in the clip, “It’s just a good, classic cocktail.”
To make: Combine 1/2 ounce gin (Stenson uses Beefeater), 1/2 ounce Green Chartreuse, 1/2 ounce Luxardo maraschino liqueur and 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice with ice. Shake vigorously, and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.