5 to Try: Last Word Riffs

A pre-Prohibition cocktail first credited to the Detroit Athletic Club in 1915, The Last Word had more or less faded into obscurity. That is, until Seattle bartender Murray Stenson stumbled upon it in Ted Saucier’s 1951 book, Bottoms Up! and revived the cocktail at Zig Zag Café in 2003. With gin, green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur and lime juice in four equal parts, the drink struck the perfect balance of sweet and sour with a little herbal complexity.

Its popularity quickly spread across the global cocktail community, with countless riffs following in its wake. Bartenders swapped the gin for other spirits like scotch and mezcal, added bubbles, and subbed amari and bitters for the liqueurs. Sam Ross’ version, the Paper Plane, created for Chicago’s Violet Hour, strayed furthest afield (combining bourbon, Aperol, lemon juice and Amaro Nonino) but it became a modern classic in its own right. Hardly the last word, it seems bartenders have plenty to say about this classic. Here are five of our favorite updates.

Green Eyes
From Portland Hunt + Alpine, this gin cocktail always hits the spot.

Last of the Oaxacans
Mezcal slides seamlessly into the classic build of green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur and lime juice.

Naked and Famous
A modern classic made with mezcal, yellow Chartreuse, Aperol and lime.

Punch Line
Fresh bell pepper stars in this tequila-based cocktail that’s loosely inspired by the Last Word.

The Last Resort
An ode to tiki and to the classic Last Word.


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