Believe it or not, this is the first classic (straight-up, no variations) cocktail I've put on this blog. That's because, while I certainly love classics, they're mostly common knowledge. For example, I figure many people know a Bee's Knees, so instead I've posted about my fall/winter version the Ginger Bees Knees. Generally speaking, I don't want to give you things you can just find on Google.
HOWEVER, this is a very special exception. The Last Word has quickly become a new favorite in our house, and I'm sharing it with you here because I'm guessing you're not familiar with it. It's an unexpected combination that yields an incredibly surprising, seductive result. The first time I made this cocktail at home, we just stared at each other speechless. So please allow me to introduce what will become your new favorite too: The Last Word.
This gin cocktail was invented at the Detroit Athletic Club in the early days of prohibition. According to Wikipedia, it nearly disappeared in the intervening decades and didn't become popular again until the early 2000's. (Although by "popular", I really mean that I've seen it on a couple menus of artisan cocktail bars specializing in gin). It's hard to imagine that a drink with only four ingredients can become something so intricate and magical, and yet I promise this one will surprise you.
This cocktail has only four components. While they're typically used in equal parts (hence this is an "equal parts" Last Word), you can tweak the ratios to fit your tastes. In that sense, it reminds me a lot of a Negroni. The first two components are straightforward: lime juice (it absolutely must be fresh-squeezed!) and gin.
The next component has been a favorite in our house for a long time: it's Luxardo. Luxardo is a super-earthy, somewhat bitter, subtly sweet cherry liqueur that's pure magic in just about anything. You'll find it in my Cherry Chai Manhattan and my Cinnamon Cherry Paloma. We also love it in an Old Fashioned. It has just the right amount of sweetness and lusciousness to balance out the other components in this drink.
Finally, enter our new great love: Green Chartreuse. This historical herbal liqueur has been made for hundreds of years by monks in France. It's said to contain 130 different herbs and plants, and apparently only two monks at a time know the exact recipe (dive into the Wikipedia article if you have time, it's fascinating stuff). This is a pricey bottle, but a little goes a long way. The flavor is beautifully complex, grassy, floral, herbaceous, and downright intriguing.
Simply put, whoever came up with this combination was crazy, and also absolutely genius. The four components of this cocktail complement each other so perfectly, with each balancing and complementing the others. The lime is fresh and tart, the gin is botanical, the Luxardo is rich and earthy, and the Green Chartreuse is grassy and floral. Part of the reason it works so well is because gin, with its own blend of botanicals, has all of these flavors already; adding the two liqueurs into the mix heightens the flavors of the gin.
As I mentioned above, what I'm sharing here is an "equal parts" Last Word, with 0.75 oz of each component. And while I'm generally all about variations on a classic, it's awfully hard to improve upon the original Last Word. My recommendation is to try the equal parts approach first, then go from there.
There's no beating around the bush though: this cocktail packs a punch. The lime juice is the only non-alcoholic ingredient, and Green Chartreuse is a whopping 110 proof. We're big into boozy cocktails here, so we adore this! But if you're generally a lover of gentler cocktails, you can make this a little more approachable by serving it over ice instead of straight up. I've also seen versions of this "lengthened" with soda water, but I'm not sure how I feel about that.
Let's Talk Ingredients
Here's what you'll need for this recipe, as well as some thoughts, tips, and possible substitutions. If you make any substitutions, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below.
Fresh-squeezed lime juice
Gin. We of course love Barr Hill from Vermont! You can see their iconic cork with the bee on top in some of these photos. We're such Barr Hill groupies and have developed quite an impressive pile of those bee corks at home!
Luxardo. Look for a tall green bottle with a red cap and a woody midsection. There's really no replacing this, so you'll want to get your hands on the real thing.
Green Chartreuse. Same as above: real thing or bust. There are some knockoffs around, but they're not nearly as good. This bottle is an investment, but well worth it.
Luxardo cherry. I'd say this is negotiable, but... well... it's really not. Yes, each cherry is about $1, but oddly they're worth every penny. Look for them in a jar at your liqueur store; this drink won't be nearly as seductive and special without one. You'll see in these photos that I also garnished this one with orange peel, which is definitely not traditional but it complements the flavors in the drink nicely.
One final thought. Because of the diverse flavors in this drink, it pairs nicely with a wide variety of food. We've especially been loving this cocktail during the summer though, alongside dishes with lime juice and fresh herbs; it's the perfect complement to the lime and Green Chartreuse in the drink.
This prohibition-era classic has developed a cult following, which now decidedly includes us. Something about it just keeps us coming back for more. Is it the seductive flavor combination? The simple, quick recipe? The intriguing balance? Who knows, but we're hooked and I hope you will be too.
It makes me so happy to hear from you and see your creations! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe. If you post a photo on Instagram, hashtag #TheRogueBrusselSprout and tag me (@TheRogueBrusselSprout) in the post text so that I'm sure to see it.
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