The Last Word –
Bartenders talk about this drink in hushed reverential tones for it is truly a masterpiece of liquid engineering. Probably originating from the Detroit Athletics Club around a century ago, The Last Word is an unlikely sounding equal parts mixture of gin, lime juice, green Chartreuse and maraschino liqueur. Our cocktail compass tells us that one part of lime juice to two parts of pretty sweet liqueurs should make for a rather syrupy and unbalanced drink but The Last Word stubbornly refuses to comply with our expectations. Outrageous! How dare it be so balanced, so delicate, so complex? Yet the Last Word was, nor is, a superstar cocktail. It spent most of its life in the shadows and even after its 2004 resurrection at the hands of Seattle bar legend Murray Stenson it remains something of a bartenders cocktail. The ability to mix a good Word is the measure of a skilled bartender; while the proportions are easy to remember, attention to detail and precision are essential. A drop too much of either of the liqueurs, a lack of dilution or an under-chilled glass can kill this beauty stone dead. By now you should really have three of the ingredients for this wonderful cocktail and the green Chartreuse, while on the pricey side (especially outside of Europe), is an investment that will last many years. It’s an intriguingly complex liqueur that’s worth having for this recipe – and its variations – alone. At this juncture I consider it my duty to inform you that the colour is named after the drink and not vice versa. Who says this isn’t an educational blog? One last word; if there was ever a surefire way to endear yourself to the bartender, it’s to order a Last Word. Or to tip generously.
– or is it?
The number of drinks that the Last Word has spawned is hard to track and, indeed, the dust is yet to settle on many of those variations. Some are so far removed from the original (such as the Paper Plane) that all that remains are the equal proportions, while other versions have clashes of names and claims of authorship. Subbing a good mezcal such as Del Maguey Vida for the gin makes the delicious La Ultima Palabra. Or is that called the Closing Argument? Or is Simone de Luca’s version that adds a(n equal) measure of pineapple juice and a sprig of thyme the true Ultima Palabra? Gaz Regan says so and he’s Gaz Regan. And what of Phil Ward’s Final Ward with rye for gin and lemon for lime? Murray, Murray, what have you unleashed?
The Last Word.
0.75oz London dry gin.
0.75oz fresh lime juice.
0.75oz maraschino liqueur.
0.75oz green Chartreuse (not yellow).
Shake well with ice and strain (double strain if preferred) into a well chilled champagne coupé.
Toast Murray Stenson for bringing this lost classic back to life.
Feel free to try the variants above as they are actually all rather good too.