Deep Conversation: A modern riff on The Last Word
Yesterday I made a classic cocktail for you called The Last Word, which is currently the center of an Instagram campaign that’s hashtagged #WeHaveTheLast Word. Today I’m going to share a personal riff on this traditional drink, but before I get into that let’s talk about the structure behind the original recipe. The Last Word is a traditional sour, which means that it belongs to one of the oldest cocktail groups out there, originally discussed in print in 1862 in How to Mix Drinks by Jerry Thomas. The sour consists of 3 parts: the base spirit, an ingredient that is sweet, and an ingredient that is sour. Pretty simple, right? In terms of ratios, the formula that is fairly popular and has always worked well for me is to go with 2 ounces of the base, 3/4 of the sweet, and 3/4 of the sour. It’s an excellent formula to memorize because it can quickly help you to create some decent cocktails on your own, or to figure out how to make something you had this past weekend at your favorite bar. Sometimes there needs to be an adjustment and this is where you have to trust your own palate and have confidence in your own judgment. The Last Word is also an equal parts cocktail, which means each ingredient is brought into the recipe in the exact same measure, making it easy to remember and easy to make for a crowd. The Last Word’s original recipe consists of gin, Green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, and lime juice, but if you look closely you can also see the sour structure there as well. The gin and the Chartreuse combine together to be the base spirit, the maraschino liqueur is the sweetener, and the lime juice is the sour, with the ratios being adjusted ever so slightly for balance. To create a riff on this classic, I needed to consider each of its parts and come up with a new combination that I thought would work well together.
Since I have such a love affair going with Bluecoat, I decided to stay with them for my recipe, but use their barrel finished product instead of their traditional gin. The barrel finishing process in new, charred American oak barrels contributes vanilla, caramel, and toffee flavors without overwhelming the beautiful combination of juniper berries, coriander, citrus peel, and angelica root that Bluecoat is known for. I happen to love the combination of a darker base spirit with Yellow Chartreuse so that’s the direction I wanted to go in with this drink. Lemon is Yellow Chartreuse’s favorite dance partner which left me with figuring out which sweet liqueur I wanted to use to complete this recipe. One of my very favorites is Suze, a French liqueur made from gentian root (think tonic water) that has a happy citrus flavor profile, some bitterness, and a fair amount of sweetness. It was the perfect choice for this cocktail. The end result was a drink that was similar to the original (after all, two of its ingredients are close cousins to those in the traditional recipe) but it was also remarkably different. The barrel aged gin gave it a smoother, softer, and deeper base, along with the Yellow Chartreuse which has far less of the sharp herbal flavor that the Green is known for. The Suze brought a more intense, brighter sweetness than what you find in the maraschino liqueur, which has always seemed rounder and softer to me. The four ingredients worked gloriously well together and I’d created a riff that was different enough to call my own, but still similar enough to pay homage to the original recipe which is truly a classic.
¼ oz Bluecoat Barrel Finished Gin
¼ oz Yellow Chartreuse
¼ oz Suze d’Autrefois liqueur
¼ oz fresh lemon juice
Shake all ingredients over ice and double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist. Enjoy!