Monday Classics: The Last Word
Currently on Instagram there is a little campaign going on during the month of April called #WeHaveTheLastWord, which has a substantial number of people all over the world posting variations of the cocktail by the same name. I thought it only appropriate that I feature this Prohibition-era drink as a Monday Classic, and provide some insight into its history and its appeal. The Last Word debuted at the Detroit Athletic Club shortly after its opening in 1915. It was an equal parts blend of gin, Green Chartreuse, Maraschino liqueur, and lime juice, and it cost a whopping 35 cents. Many cocktail researchers think that it quickly became such a local favorite because the Chartreuse helped to temper the flavors of the so-called bathtub gin, which could often be quite harsh. The drink appears to have been brought to the DAC by a vaudeville performer named Frank Fogarty, who was a monologue artist from Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood. Fogarty continued to spread word (pun intended) of the cocktail as he travelled from city to city. The Last Word was featured in Ted Saucier’s Bottoms Up in 1951, but then suffered the same fate of fading into obscurity as so many Prohibition-era drinks did. In 2003, Murray Stinson, of the Zig Zag Café in Seattle, was looking for some inspiration in Saucier’s book when he came across The Last Word. He added it to the cocktail list and its huge success caused it to spread all the way to New York City, where a variation that substituted rye for the gin, and lemon for the lime, landed on the menu at the Pegu Club there. St. John Frizell worked at the Pegu Club in 2007, and became the next bartender to grab The Last Word baton and pass it on when he opened Fort Defiance in 2009, in none other than Frank Fogarty’s Red Hook neighborhood in Brooklyn. The drink had come full circle!
The Last Word’s appeal is easy to understand. It’s a basic sour that balances citrus against sweet whose equal proportions make it very easy to whip up in a larger batch, and just by changing the base spirit you can create many variations. A number of people agree that both gin and Green Chartreuse can be polarizing ingredients in that you either love them or hate them. Something about being combined together in this cocktail seems to make them more palatable to those folks that generally would not drink either spirit. In this sense, The Last Word becomes one of those instances where the whole is so much great than the sum of its parts. This is true of many cocktails, I might add, and it’s always a good thing! Check out the many innovative recipes that are currently under the hashtag on Instagram. Feel free to join in with your variation! I’ll be posting mine tomorrow.
The Last Word
¼ oz Bluecoat Gin
¼ oz Green Chartreuse
¼ oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur
¼ oz fresh lime juice
Shake all ingredients over ice and double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lime twist or a Luxardo cherry. Enjoy!