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How to Improve on a Last Word

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We’re strong proponents of having a good home bar. Welcome to Cocktail Hour, where we’ll show you the best ways to put your liquor cabinet to use. This cocktail is brought to you by thebar.com.

Today: The story of one special spin on a classic cocktail. Make one tonight -- and every Friday hereafter.

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Final Ward cocktail

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.

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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.

Final Ward

Serves 1

1/2 ounce Bulleit rye whiskey 
1/2 ounce green Chartreuse
1/2 ounce maraschino liqueur
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice

See the full recipe (and save it and print it) here.

We've partnered with thebar.com to bring you cocktail content for your home bar. Please enjoy responsibly.

Tags: food52, food 52, the bar, cocktails