Within classic cocktail culture, gin so often plays a prominent role. Such is the case with The Last Word, a delightful green concoction enlivened by the aromatic clear spirit. It’s a cocktail that has practically lived two lives, one just as it was born during the heyday of early 20th-century American bar life, and another which started about two decades ago.
How did it come about? Drinks folklore says The Last Word was devised by Frank Fogarty at the Detroit Athletic Club circa 1916. Oddly enough, Fogarty was not a bartender but an award-winning vaudeville comedian. Regardless of his progression, he came up with a damn good cocktail that utilizes some rather obscure ingredients.
Early on, the cocktail was a hit. The Gatsby era was drawn to both its faded green hue and interesting flavor profile. Then, the war came and The Last Word was practically brushed under the bar rug until the speakeasy craze of the early aughts bought it back to life. Gin-adoring bars like Zig Zag Cafe in Seattle and the late Pegu Club in NYC reminded us of just how great the drink is. In fact, beloved cocktail artist Murray Stenson of the former establishment is credited with resuscitating the cocktail, giving The Last Word, well, the last word.
One of the many pros The Last Word offers is it’s memorable makeup. The recipe is easy to memorize, as it’s equal parts of the four main ingredients: gin, Green Chartreuse, Luxardo, and lime. And it stays simple even after being mixed up, the classic recipe requiring no added frills in the form of garnishes. At its core, it’s simply a wonderfully biting drink born of the blissful pre-Prohibition era. Many call it pungent, in the best of ways.
When preparing one, it seems like the drink could use more gin until you realize that the two other liqueurs pack some booziness as well. Given that three of the four ingredients are alcoholic, start on the lighter side. You can always dial it up if you want a higher-octane cocktail. Either way, the end result is truly unique; a little funky, a little herbal, with subtle hints of mint, gentian, and orchard fruit.
Which gin to select? Something bone dry is preferred as that particular style will offset the liqueurs at play here. We suggest something like No. 3 or Fords. If you’re lacking selection, a big brand like Tanqueray does the job. Some bartenders opt for an overproof gin to take on the big notes offered by both liqueurs. That’s entirely up to your taste and whether or not you’re up for a hangover the next day.
Per usual, squeeze your own citrus. This is particularly important as The Last Word should finish dry and sour. You’ll need quality lime to achieve that finale. It’s not uncommon to see the drink served with a cherry garnish but we believe that only distracts from this cult classic (not to mention it can tamper with the flavors if you eat the cherry mid-drink). Just mix up the four ingredients in equal parts and take a trip back in time to the golden era of gin cocktails. And, if you like, repeat.
The Last Word
- .75 oz London dry gin
- .75 oz Green Chartreuse
- .75 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur
- .75 oz fresh lime juice
Method: Shake all ingredients with ice, then strain into a chilled coupe. No garnish.
Read more: Classic Gin Cocktail Recipes
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