Gin, Chartreuse, maraschino, and lime, shaken in equal parts, served up in a coupe.

It is classic cocktails like these that inspire endless signature riffs. Invented in Detroit and made popular in New York, here is the low down on The Last Word and how to make it in this 3-of-4-part excerpt from Signature Cocktails by Amanda Schuster.

Excerpted from Signature Cocktails © 2023 by Amanda Schuster. Photography © 2023 by Andy Sewell. Reproduced by permission of Phaidon. All rights reserved.


YEAR: 1915/16
ORIGIN: Detroit, USA
PREMISES: Detroit Athletic Club
GLASSWARE: Coupe or cocktail

Though it dates to the pre-Prohibition era, by the end of the twentieth century, The Last Word cocktail almost had a literal meaning.

The drink can originally be traced to the Detroit Athletic Club, where, according to a November 2014 article by Sylvia Rector in the Detroit Free Press, it was found on a menu from 1916 by club historian Ken Voyles. In the 1920s, the drink was introduced to New York City society by vaudevillian Frank Fogarty, who was such a promoter of it that he is sometimes incorrectly credited with inventing it to mask low-grade bathtub gin.

Decades after its mid-twentieth century disappearance, The Last Word found new entry points into the global cocktail conversation, thanks to bartender Murray Stenson at Seattle’s Zig Zag Cafe, who in 2004 discovered it while perusing a 1951 copy of Bottoms Up by Waldorf-Astoria hotel publicist Ted Saucier.

A major part of The Last Word’s modern allure is the inclusion of green Chartreuse, an aromatic liqueur made in France by Carthusian monks, keepers of its secret recipe of herbs and botanicals. Coinciding with The Last Word’s popularity in the early 2000s was a similarly cultish fascination with the liqueur, including new collectors of rare, numbered bottlings of both the green and yellow varieties.

In the years following Stenson’s discovery, The Last Word has not only found its way onto countless menus around the world, it has also spawned many riffs on the theme—sometimes made with bubbles, or with different base spirits and/or liqueurs, using different fruit juices, serving it hot—not to mention all the cheeky name variations, such as Oh, My Word!, The Last Laugh, Not Another Word, Word Up, etc.

It’s all about the proportions. Here is the basic recipe to start with.

¾ oz (45 ml) dry gin
¾ oz (45 ml) fresh lime juice
¾ oz (45 ml) maraschino liqueur
¾ oz (45 ml) green Chartreuse liqueur

Shake all ingredients with ice until well chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass.

Amanda Schuster is a freelance writer with over 15 years’ industry experience covering wine, spirits, cocktails and occasionally things you eat with those things. She is a freelance writer, beverage consultant, and the author of New York Cocktails and Drink Like a Local New York: A Field Guide to New York’s Best Bars from Cider Mill Press. She also authored Signature Cocktails by Phaidon Press. With advanced training in both wine and spirits, Amanda likes to think of herself as bi-spiritual.