One of the very first cocktails we featured was the fantastic Vieux Mot, or “Last Word,” a Gin and St-Germain cocktail that’s light and sweet and tart all at the same time, and that’s also one of Nole’s favorites (someone remind me to mix one up for her soon). Oddly enough, we’ve received a few requests from friends to also feature the Vieux Mot’s spiritual ancestor: the Prohibition-era Last Word. So here we are: the Last Word, a dollop of herbal and botanical flavors that will make an impression. – Andrew
Illustration by Dinara Mirtalipova for Oh So Beautiful Paper
The Last Word
3/4 oz Dry Gin
3/4 oz Green Chartreuse
3/4 oz Maraschino Liqueur
3/4 oz Lime Juice
Combine everything with lots of ice, shake well, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Enjoy!
Prohibition was not a kind time for cocktails. While drinking remained pretty popular, it got a lot harder to import the more obscure ingredients, which nearly drove some beautiful cocktails, like the Aviation, extinct. Many recipes that originated during this period were pretty bad, using lots of bold flavors to mask the (or so I’ve heard) awful taste of bathtub Gin and the like. So, I’m not entirely sure how the Last Word came about, because it’s a legitimately good and surprisingly mature drink. It’s also not like anything I could have expected when I first tried it.
The Last Word has all the flavors you’d expect from a Gin Sour: botanicals from the Gin, sweet and tart with a bit of almond from the Maraschino liqueur, but also some flavors you don’t expect: rich, flowering herbal flavors, pungent and sharp, with (surprising!) undertones of licorice. It’s good, but it’s unusual, and it packs a punch. It’s also gorgeously green. People will sit up and take notice if you mix one up for them.
The drink gets all of that herbal complexity from the Green Chartreuse, a French herbal liqueur made from a secret blend of 130 herbs, flowers, and spices that – get this, I am not even joking – originates in a centuries-old recipe and is known to only two Carthusian monks at a monastery in the small French town of Voiron, each of whom knows half the recipe. The monks – let me repeat, I’m not joking that this continues to happen in a world of iPhones and Facebook and all that jazz – have taken a vow of silence, but periodically come together to distill Chartreuse. Did I mention that I’m not kidding? Chartreuse is technically a liqueur, but despite its underlying sweetness, it has a high proof for a liqueur (110, or 55% alcohol), with intense and assertive and enormously complex herbal flavors. In other words, fantastic and delicious but something to be approached with respect.
The Last Word is credited to Frank Fogarty, who either invented the drink at the Detroit Athletic Club sometime in the 1920s, or at least popularized it. Fogarty was not a bartender, but a vaudeville performer, basically a stand-up comedian. Goes to show that you don’t have to be a professional to mix up interesting and delicious drinks. The Last Word has popped in and out of cocktail history over the last few decades; lets hope it sticks around for a bit this time.
Photo Credits: Nole Garey for Oh So Beautiful Paper