There are a handful of cocktails in our experience that anyone reading this should recognize, or at the very least, drinks you should try. One example is the Last Word—a forgotten classic until it was unearthed by Seattle bartending legend Murray Stenson of Zig Zag Café. To the uninitiated, its bold and unusual flavor profile featuring both Luxardo maraschino liqueur and Green Chartreuse can be a revelation. The fact that it is citrus-based makes it accessible, and if you are a self-proclaimed gin hater, it is a drink that can definitely open your mind to the wonderful possibilities that a good craft cocktail can offer. Don't feel like you need to make the Last Word before you try today's feature, but if you haven't had the pleasure you are certainly missing out. Knowing one drink can also serve as a convenient benchmark for judging another.
As good as the Last Word is, we shouldn't be too surprised that it has inspired its fair share of riffs. For example, a while ago we wrote about a spin-off called the First Word cocktail, a drink that was once featured on the menu at Portland's excellent tapas restaurant, Toro Bravo. This one substitutes Genepy for the Green Chartreuse. Genepy in the First Word has a similar herbal character to the Last Word and manages to pull off a decent variation without straying too far afield.
1 oz gin
1 oz Strega
1 oz Licor 43
1 oz lime juice
Add the ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake to chill. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
A few weeks ago, we ordered a drink from the menu at Bar La Grassa in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is clear by the name that this drink is modeled after the Last Word even if the recipe on paper retains only half of the ingredients. The substitutions include another strong but sweet herbal liqueur (Strega subbing for Chartreuse) and a Mexican vanilla liqueur instead of Italian cherry (Licor 43 in place of Luxardo). To our taste, the proportions are the same, so the original framework is definitely intact.
The first sip confirms a similar experience to drinking the Last Word. You immediately sense strong herbal flavors and the balanced combination and sweet and sour, but this time there's a hint of anise on the nose. This gives way to the vanilla from the Licor 43 like an herbal dreamsicle. The lime juice keeps the sugar in check, and all of it blends nicely with the gin. Bar La Grassa uses Solveig, so we did too, but you could experiment with other brands. Solveig is made by Far North Spirits located "up north" as we like to say in Minnesota. They distill the individual botanicals that comprise Solveig instead of everything together. Once the distillates are blended, the resulting gin is lovely—floral and creamy—but this drink has enough flavor to stand up to a less-nuanced gin if you opt for something easier to find.
When we first spotted the Final Say on the menu, we had to chuckle at the name—we have the classic Last Word, the contemporary First Word, and now the Final Say. Perhaps there are other names out there that will attempt to one-up the original (we are looking for the Middle
Finger Word, the Awkward Silence, or maybe even the Entire Sentence)!