The Last Word Cocktail

The Mr. Potato Head school of bartending

Your cocktail calendar entry for: May
1
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May 1 is an extraordinarily important date.  It’s Mr. Potato Head’s birthday.  Born on May 1, 1952, he warrants a Special Edition of The Drunkard’s Almanac along with a variety of recipes starting with the Last Word cocktail as Drink of the Day.

A big recent news item was that the Mr. Potato Head brand recently dropped the Mr.  That’s right, the brand is now just Potato Head.  Nonetheless, Mr. Potato Head and Mrs. Potato Head are still both sold, it’s just the brand name that makes no distinction.  Our Editorial Board likes all potatoes, so let’s not get excited, and since May 1 is Mr. Potato Head’s birthday we’ll proceed as usual.

Why Mr. Potato Head matters

Now on to matters at hand and why Mr. Potato Head is so important.  Let’s say you have him sitting there with a black hat, pink ears and a moustache.  What happens when you get bored of looking at that?  You swap out the black hat for a blue one, you put glasses on him, you stick his nose where his ear used to be – pretty much whatever you like.  Hours of family fun.

But before you dismiss that out of hand and immediately start relating potatoes to vodka, stop and recognize that the same concept applies to cocktails, though the various plastic body parts are poor garnishes.  Or at least some clever bartenders acted this way even before Mr. Potato Head was born.  Here’s an example:  Tired of your Negroni?  Try substituting bourbon for the gin and suddenly it’s a Boulevardier.  It’s a miracle.

Exactly how Mr. Potato Head himself was inserted into the vernacular is a bit unclear, but usage is sometimes attributed to Phil Ward, protégé of Audrey Saunders at the Pegu Club, opening crew at Death & Co., founder of Mayuhel and widely considered a bad-ass bartender.  Describing his theory of drinks he notes “That’s pretty much my theory on making cocktails, it’s Mr. Potato Head.  My theory is that every template of a good drink is a blueprint for other good drinks so you just take it apart and put it back together.”  And that’s the way it is.

The Last Word cocktail and other recipes

The recipe for the Last Word is shown below.  The name of each of the variations in the table here links to the specific recipe for each of those cocktails.  But as you’ll see, the directions are the same – only the ingredients change.

Last Word Pete’s Word Dernier Mot Dirty Word Final Ward Naked & Famous
Gin Laphroig Rhum Agricole Tequila Rye Whiskey Mezcal
Lime juice Lime juice Lime juice Lime juice Lemon juice Lime juice
Maraschino liqueur Maraschino liqueur Maraschino liqueur Maraschino liqueur Maraschino liqueur Aperol
Green Chartreuse Green Chartreuse Green Chartreuse Green Chartreuse Green Chartreuse Yellow Chartreuse

Notice that moving from left to right the first three variations substitute only one item, the base spirit, while the Final Ward substitutes two items and the rightmost entry substitutes three.  The Naked & Famous is listed last because by the time you get there this evening you probably will be.  Finally, if one seeks to go a further step we have also reported on the Paper Plane, a Sam Ross creation.

Last Word

Last Word

The Last Word is a classic cocktail from the Prohibition era but which had fallen into obscurity until being resurrected by Murray Stenson at the Zig Zag cafe in Seattle. Bracing and herbal, well balanced with the who-would-have-thought-of-it combination of Chartreuse and maraschino, its popularity took off. The Last Word now appears up on bar menus around the world and has spawned any number of variations in which one or more ingredients are substituted.
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Equipment

  • Shaker
  • Nick and Nora or coupe glass

Ingredients
  

  • ¾ oz Gin
  • ¾ oz Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
  • ¾ oz Green Chartreuse
  • ¾ oz Fresh lime juice

Instructions
 

  • Add ingredients to your trusty cocktail shaker
  • Add ice and shake until frosty cold
  • Strain into chilled glass. And please, be civilized and double strain to avoid floating ice chips
  • Drink
  • Rinse and repeat

 

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