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Today: The story of one special spin on a classic cocktail. Make one tonight -- and every Friday hereafter.
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You like a Last Word -- with its gin, Chartreuse, maraschino, and lime -- just fine. You count on it to be reliably boozy and brash, something you make when you want 5 o’clock to really wake you up. Maybe you’ve thanked one, silently, on a date for making you look like you know a thing or two about classic cocktails.
Now imagine the slightly testy combination relaxes its shoulders a little bit: Rye gives it roundness and girl-next-door lemon replaces the lime. Now you have a Final Ward, and you’ll like it great.
The recipe comes from Phil Ward, one New York’s great bartenders, who decided to smooth out the sharp edges of a Last Word but hold on to its mystery. As a favor to you, his last name is nearly indistinguishable from “word,” so when you order this drink incorrectly in a bustling bar (I’ll have a Final Word please), that date will never know.
Phil spent years bartending at Death & Co -- the larger block from which other bars and cocktails chip -- reimagining how we mix our alcohol, first and most iconically by turning an Old-Fashioned on its head with mezcal and tequila. (He called it a Oaxaca Old-Fashioned, and you can order it -- or a close cousin of it -- nearly anywhere now.) He corrupted a martini. (See: His Mexi-Gin Martini, an orgy of gin, mezcal, tequila, and Chartreuse. It is excellent.) And he redefined our precious Last Word.
Like all of his drinks, the Final Ward has a confidence that takes you away a little bit. You’ll want to sit with it for a while, maybe make another. Its brightness might snap you back to reality for a minute, but then you’ll find a new, sneaking layer you didn’t taste before. You’ll want to get to know it.
And that’s the thing about a good cocktail: It’s a fantasy. There’s always something it’ll never tell; here, that mystery is the Chartreuse. Or is it the rye? A good drink will always let you maintain the illusion.
I have a thing for most foods topped with a fried egg, a strange disdain for overly soupy tomato sauce, and I can never make it home without ripping off the end of a newly-bought baguette. I like spoons very much.