The Last Word was first served at the Detroit Athletic Club, circa 1915. Created just before the start of Prohibition, likely by a bartender named Frank Fogarty, it’s one of the cocktail canon’s most successful Prohibition-era drinks.
Composed of gin,
, maraschino liqueur and fresh lime juice, the Last Word showed some staying power and appeared in Ted Saucier’s 1951 book, “
.” But by then, it had mostly fallen out of favor, and after World War Two, it had retreated into the dusty corners of cocktails past.
After decades of being lost to history, the Last Word was one of the first pre-Prohibition drinks to lead the cocktail revival of the early aughts. Murray Stenson, then working at Seattle’s Zig Zag Café, unearthed the equal-parts classic, finding it in Saucier’s book. He stirred up the drink for his customers, and it proliferated from there, first reaching Portland and other west coast cities before quickly making its way to New York. Before long, the Last Word was a staple in cocktail bars across the country, revered for its heady balance of sweet, sour and herbal flavors.
The Last Word is about as close to perfect as cocktails get. But like with many classics, creative bartenders—both of the professional and at-home variety—have found ways to riff on the Last Word. The
, invented by NYC barkeep Sam Ross in 2008, is a liberal take on the original that features bourbon. Other variations hew more closely to the classic recipe, but sub out gin for another base spirit. Mezcal makes an earthy, savory version while rhum agricole produces a fresh and grassy drink. Of course, the first versions were supposedly made with bathtub gin specific to the Detroit Athletic Club, so even London Dry or Old Tom gins technically stray from the original.
Whether you stick to the classic recipe or stake out on your own, one thing is certain: The Last Word will leave you, um, speechless.