05 June 2009

Benito vs. the Cocktail: The Last Word

When resources and trade are limited, the human mind is capable of amazing improvisation. Examples would include maintenance of classic American cars in Cuba, Amish engineers adapting electric tools to run on compressed air, and nearly every plot of the TV series MacGyver. The results are not always elegant, but creative solutions do emerge. Such is the case of cocktails invented during the Prohibition era here in the US.

One example is The Last Word, an oddball that likely was invented to take advantage of widely-available illicit gin and more complex spirits that were hidden in basements or smuggled across borders. The recipe is simple, equal parts of four ingredients:

The Last Word Cocktail
1 oz. Gin
1 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
1 oz. Maraschino Liqueur
1 oz. Chartreuse

The last two ingredients are not common in the modern kitchen (much less the modern bar), but if you're like me and have these on hand, it's worth trying out. In many respects it's a variation on The Aviation. The Maraschino and Chartreuse, two unrelated liqueurs that should not work together under God's benevolent gaze, somehow balance each other out here. There is a creamy, nutty, herbal, cherry flavor that is complicated to explain and forces you to take another sip.

This cocktail has the unique property of being obscure and looking like a cheap green margarita from a distance, even though the color is fully natural. It's hard to look cool among the other cocktail hipsters if it appears as though you've just opened the spigot on the big jug of pre-mixed Cuervo Margaritas. Perhaps it needs a unique garnish, like a page from the Z section of an old dictionary torn out and wrapped around the stem.


pmjones said...

"A garnish of the 'Z' page of the dictionary" would make it The Last Word indeed. ;-)

You're right about the complexity of the taste; I maintain that I was sensing "cocoa" in the flavor, which (as you noted) might have been more related to the nuttiness of the Maraschino combined with the florals of the Chartreuse.

It's a nicely complex piece of work, and well worth trying; thanks for making one for me. :-)

Benito said...


Thanks for being the guinea pig for this and many other cocktails. I know that it's grueling work.