Words by: Simon Difford
Made with gin, Green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur and freshly pressed lime juice, traditionally in equal parts, shaken with ice and served straight-up. The Last Word is thought to date from immediately prior to prohibition but owes its present day popularity to being reincarnated in 2004 by Murray Stenson during his tenure at the Zig Zag Cafe in Seattle, USA.
The earliest published recipe, so usually regarded as being the original, is found in Ted Saucier's 1951 cocktail book Bottoms Up!:
1/4 dry gin
1/4 lime juice
Serve in cocktail glass
Both the Last Word's name and equal parts recipe lends itself to adaptation. I prefer aLast Word recipe with the gin dialed up. There follows some of the many variations:
Dublin Minstrel - Irish whiskey, Green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur and lime juice.
Dutch Word - Genever oude, Green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur and lime juice.
Bird is the Word No.1 - tequila, Yellow Chartreuse, apricot brandy liqueur and lemon juice.
Bird is the Word No.2 - grappa, Green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, lime juice and chocolate bitters.
Closing Argument - mezcal, Green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur and lime juice.
Final Ward - equal parts rye whiskey, Green Chartreuse, maraschino and lemon juice.
Last Word (Difford's recipe) - gin, Green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur and lime juice.
Latest Word - equal parts genever, Green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur and lime juice.
Marvin's Last Word - Equal parts gin, mastikha, Green Chartreuse and lime juice.
Monte Cassino - equal parts rye, Yellow Chartreuse, Benedictine and lemon juice.
Next To Last Word - equal parts gin, elderflower liqueur, maraschino liqueur and lemon juice.
Other Word - mezcal, lime juice, Yellow Chartreuse, agave syrup and maraschino liqueur.
The Symphony - with the addition of Islay whisky.
Wordsmith - equal parts rum, Green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur and lime juice.
The earliest known written reference to the Last Word is in Ted Saucier's 1951 cocktail book Bottoms Up! where under the drink's name he wrote "Courtesy Detroit Athletic Club, Detroit. This cocktail was first introduced here around thirty years ago by Frank Fogarty, who was very well known in vaudeville. He was called the 'Dublin Minstrel,' and was a very fine monologue artist."
Depending on how accurate we assume "around thirty years" prior to the 1951 publication date is, this puts the drinks origins around 1920, immediately before or after Prohibition. The consensus seems to be that this this is one of the few great cocktails to emerge from the period before Prohibition.
Detroit Athletic Club
The Detroit Athletic Club, or the DAC, was established in 1887 by a group of young athletes with a clubhouse on Detroit's Woodward Avenue. The DAC was reborn in 1913 by a group of prominent Detroit automotive and industrial leaders who built the magnificent six-story Clubhouse on Madison Avenue which opened in 1915, where it is said Fogarty introduced the Last Word.
Bartenders standing behind Detroit Athletic Club bar. Image uncovered by Mitch Lustig and courtesy of the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library
Known as the 'The Dublin Minstrel', Frank Fogarty was a famous American theatre entertainer who was born in County Tipperary, Ireland but from the age of two grew up and lived on Warren street, Brooklyn. He broke into vaudeville (akin to today's stand-up comedy) in 1911 when he performed at the Orpheum in Brooklyn and became famous for his monologues, winning the New York Morning Telegraph contest for the most popular vaudeville performer in 1912. He typically opened his performance with a song and finished it with a recitation and this could well be where the drink's Last Word name emanates. Fogarty was quite a speaker, who also dabbled in politics being elected president of the vaudeville actors union in 1914.
The Last Word continued to be popular during and after Prohibition and so found its way into in Ted Saucier's book. However, like so many cocktails the Last Word fell out of favour to be forgotten. That was until 2004, when Murray Stenson, a bartender at the Zig Zag Café in Seattle, USA found the recipe in a 1952 copy of Saucier's book. Murray added the cocktail to the menu at the Zig Zag Café where it was well received by regulars. As Tan Vinh wrote in the The Seattle Times on 11th March 2009, "The drink became a cult hit around Seattle, then Portland and was eventually picked up at cocktail dens in New York City, where many bartending trends are set. The Last Word then started to appear on drink menus in Chicago and San Francisco and spread to several cities in Europe - especially around London and Amsterdam - and beyond"
Over on America's East Coast, when Audrey Saunders opened Manhattan's Pegu Club in 2005, the Last Word was one of the cocktails championed by her team, including Phil Ward, the man responsible for the Final Ward, the best-known riff on the Last Word.