Now we spotlight The Last Word. The classic lost pre-prohibition cocktail drink which almost singlehandedly elevated the vaunted Chartreuse to its position as the king of herbal liqueurs.
The Botanist Recipe
We still aren't other blogs. We don't force you to read through 23 pages of someone's ridiculous rambling about their personal lived experience with soy based, nut allergy safe, non-gmo, BPA delimited, essential oil full chicken casserole that complies with the never-ending demands of a three year old child living with a blogger treating them like the second coming of Xerxes I in order to get the recipe. Instead here it is:
.75 oz gin (for for the classic feel, mix vodka with juniper berries and herbs in your bathtub)
.75 oz fresh lime juice
.75 oz maraschino liquer (no preference here)
.75 oz Chartreuse Green
Dehydrated Orange or Blood Orange, Alternatively Lime Wedge
Add the four principle ingredients and shake/double strain into chilled glass. Savor that beautiful light green color and that herbal aroma. Garnish and serve.
Now sip that drink. Indulge in that ancient herbal back end combine with the bright lime and savory gin. Take pictures, amaze your friends, and have the last word.
The history of the last word goes back to right around the turn of the century in the early 1900's. The Detroit Athletic Club is classically credited with the drink by a bartender and vaudeville performer Frank Fogerty. Interestingly enough, the cocktail menu from the club in 1916 listed at $.35 for the drink. This would equate to approximately $10.50 in today’s money, which would make it a fairly pricey cocktail for the time. The first recorded recipe was in the 1951 cocktail book "Bottoms up" by Ted Saucier. The drink however did not have any popularity until the early 2000’s when the drink was resurrected in Seattle and soon thereafter became a staple in all high end cocktail bars in America. It has endured since that point in various forms and has found a devoted following amongst the pre-pro crowd.
Detroit Athletic Club 1915
The base drink is a derivative of a derivative of a derivative of a Negroni. Basically the standard base Negroni employs three different liquors in the same proportion and ratio. In the Negroni's case it is gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari. The addition/substitution of the lime juice, maraschino, and chartreuse makes a significant impact in the floral and high notes and eliminates the bitterness of the original Negroni. It should be noted that the Corpse Reviver series is actually a derivative from The Last Word. Corpse Reviver #2 through #4 being the best, with #1, #5, and #6 being rather atrocious. Obviously the star of the show is Chartreuse, a unique liqueur first introduced in 1605 by the Franciscan monks and continues in its ancient form until today. That story however is a epic tale in and of itself which I will discuss in a future post. It is however the king of all herbal Liqueurs, the most enduring, and the most sought after. It does deserve note that green chartreuse should be used instead of yellow chartreuse in this particular concoction as the yellow does not provide either the appropriate balance or the appropriate sweetness value for the drink.
Historical Recreation of Chartreuse Distillation
This is the technical portion. Meant for people who are in the know, or are interested in the chemistry and specifics of the more intricate details of the drink.
Glassware: Nick and Nora's or Coupes are again the standard allowing the light green essence of the drink to shine through. As there is no carbonation and only a small amount of citrus, there’s is no need to try to preserve any carbonation. I will note that if you try to egg-white fizz this, it will absolutely destroy any high notes present. While I will not deny that the presentation is excellent, it sacrifices the drink's essence in the name of vanity.
Temperature: Chill the glass in whatever way suits you best and as this drink does contain lime juice it should be given a nice rolling shake prior to double straining. I feel that any cloudiness in the drink detracts from the aesthetic of the overall experience. My experiments have shown that the temperature should be below freezing however I have not noticed a large discernible change in the palate by over over chilling the drink.
Garnish: Garnishes a matter of personal preference for this particular cocktail. I prefer dehydrated citrus and in particular I feel that dehydrated blood orange contrast nicely with the light green color. I have seen them garnished with cherries, limes, and every possible combination of herbs. I have always felt at the overall balance of the drink lends itself to less on garnish and more on allowing the cocktail itself to be forward as it is quite a seductive color. Additionally, I would argue that the placement of herbs within the drink will inevitably tip the overall balance.
Spec and Ingredients: In this particular drink the volumes are rather absolute. The addition of maraschino, chartreuse, and the lime juice are almost essential to the cocktail however the base liquor is not. Several mixologists have experimented with whiskey variant called the Final Last Word, or Tequila, Rum, and the ever popular Mezcal varieties. The gin that was initially used was bathtub gin which is just as disgusting as it sounds, but for all you hipsters out there, dump that vodka in the tub.. I haven't noticed a huge difference on the base spirit variety affecting the drink significantly. I would give the suggestion of swapping the lime juice for lemon if you were using a more aged spirit as I believe that the lime produces an unsatisfactory reaction with the oak products. I have tried substituting out maraschino for other various pitted fruit liqueurs and have had moderate levels of success with apricot brandy as well as other pear and apple varieties. I have not had much success with adding a berry or non-pitted fruit flavoring as this clashes significantly with the Chartreuse and produces an unsavory result.
Who is this drink for?
This is the dominant pre-prohibition cocktail and one which screams elegance and nuance. The Last Word is, as it's name suggests, the last drink of the night. It is a drink that is sipped gently in winding down conversations and one which is admired for its color and it’s herbal notes. While certainly not the standard drink to order in many cocktail bars and indeed one that is not necessarily known by a great number of individuals, it does have its place as an appreciation to a time before modern distillation techniques took hold producing mass amounts of insipid flavored vodkas.
Thanks for enduring, and as always we leave you with a cocktail quotation, this time from our founding father.
When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave it up. Reading, that is.
– Henny Youngman