Explorations in Mixology Cocktails Drinking

Final Ward

It is always difficult to pin us down on a favorite cocktail. Whenever we get asked this question our response is usually a comeback with more questions, like, “spirit-driven, or citrus?” or “which base spirit?”. Once we come to an understanding, our answer is usually a short list, and that list almost always includes the Last Word.

There have been many variations on this rediscovered classic over the years, and we keep trying them regularly, but the most famous might be the Final Ward, created by Phil Ward in 2007 at Death & Co in New York. Yet, for some reason, we never made it. Time to change that on this lovely autumn afternoon.

Final Ward
.75 oz rye whiskey (100 proof)
.75 oz Green Chartreuse
.75 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur
.75 oz lemon juice

Shake with ice, then fine strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.

If you are already a fan of the Last Word, you will recognize this as an “equals” recipe—one that is easy to remember (and scale) because it has all equal proportions. Here, Mr. Ward has replaced the gin with straight rye whiskey. Back in the earlier days of the modern cocktail renaissance when this drink was created, Rittenhouse bonded rye was gaining popularity, so that’s what we used. 100-proof does not hurt at just three-quarters of an ounce, but who are we kidding? We poured a full ounce of each ingredient. This recipe also swaps lime to lemon—a move that seems appropriate for a whiskey base.

The flavor is definitely reminiscent of the original, given that the strong herbal character of Chartreuse typically dominates everything it touches. However, part of what makes this combo so interesting is the way the equally surprising flavor of Luxardo Maraschino liqueur is able to compete. The acid from the lemon keeps the sugar from getting out of control. Where gin might be drier and floral, here the sour combo leans slightly sweeter, somewhat reminiscent of Bottle Caps candy that we grew up eating. It might be just an illusion that the whiskey creates because it doesn’t seem out of balance. We plan to make a lot more of these. We love it, and that’s the final word we will say about it.

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