Time Machines and Last Words


Some drinks only attain ‘classic’ status long after they were first published and then forgotten.  Such a drink is the Last Word Daisy.  I know that you may be more accustomed to hearing it called the Last Word Cocktail, or simply the Last Word.  But, according to nineteenth century, American mixology, the drink is a daisy – and a rather good one, too.  The originally-published Last Word can be found in the 1951 book Bottoms Up by Ted Saucier.  He indicates that he got it from the Detroit Athletic Club and gives each of the liquid ingredients in the amount of 1/4 of the total.  If we adhere to the pre-prohibition tradition that the total for liquor in a single drink should come to a jigger, or 2 fluid-ounces, it means that each of the liquors will be in the amount of 1/3 jigger, or 2/3 fluid-ounce.  That means that the lime juice should be in that amount, too.  Here is the recipe from my book:

Last Word Daisy

This original Last Word Daisy is quite a good and flavorful drink, and that could be the end of our investigation into it.

But, what if we had a time machine?  If we took the ingredients, the Detroit Athletic Club, and the bar-tender fifty years earlier, there is a very good chance that a true cocktail would have been made instead of a daisy.  1901 was during the zenith of the true cocktail as the most-favored type of drink in American bars.

So much for speculation.  A time machine is not needed.  Any drink with such rich flavor outside of the juice deserves to be tried as a true cocktail.

The handling of the juice when adapting a sour, daisy, lion or blossom into a cocktail is simple: reduce it to a barspoonful or a teaspoonful.  I favor the barspoonful.

Adding a couple of dashes of bitters is also straightforward.  Stirring, instead of shaking, is prescribed so as not to bruise the velvet of the liquor, d’accord.

The handling of the sugar or liqueur is a bit more troublesome, however.  In a sour, daisy or lion, the sweetening ingredients in the drink will be voluminous-enough to balance a considerable amount of juice.  With the amount of the juice reduced, the amount of desired sweetening should be less, too.

My problem with adapting the original Last Word Daisy into a Last Word Cocktail was that generous amounts for the maraschino liqueur and the green Chartreuse liqueur made for a delightful, richly-flavored drink.  Of course, I first tried the cocktail variant in the same liquor proportions (1:2 — one part plain spirit and two parts total liqueur) as the original daisy.  This meant 2/3 fluid-ounce of the gin and 2/3 fluid-ounce for each of the two liqueurs.  The flavor was good, but the drink was just far too sweet for me.  Then I tried giving half the jigger (1 pony, or 1 fluid-ounce) to the spirit and giving the other half of the jigger to the combined liqueurs (meaning a half-pony, or 1/2 fluid-ounce, for each).  While less sweet, this 1:1 version of drink was still a bit too sweet for me.  But, the flavor of the liqueurs was still delightfully rich.  I next tried making the drink in the 2:1 proportions by giving two-thirds of the jigger (1-1/3 fluid-ounces) to the gin and making up the remaining third of the jigger (2/3 fluid-ounce) with the combined liqueurs (1/3 fluid-ounce each).  The resultant drink was not overly-sweet, to me, but there was a slight dropping-off in the richness of the flavors of the liqueurs.  But it was still quite good.  I next tried the cocktail adaptation in the 3:1 proportion.  The drink was very balanced in terms of bitter, sour and sweet, but, for me, the richness of the liqueurs’ flavors had fallen into an abyss.  As I carefully considered my works, it was tough for me to decide whether I wanted to most-highly recommend the 1:1 or 2:1 proportions for the jigger.  I settled on the latter, but decided to include the other possibilities in my recipe, of course.  Here it is from my book:

Last Word Cocktail

I was pleased enough with it that I began to have students make both the Last Word Daisy and the Last Word Cocktail, side by side, in some of my courses.  Perhaps my students disproportionately represent that part of society that generally likes the flavor of liquor enough to prefer it to be the star of their drinks.  Perhaps that is why the majority tend to prefer the Last Word Cocktail adaptation over the original Last Word Daisy.

Try them both!

One thought on “Time Machines and Last Words

  1. What about substituting Kirschwasser for some or all of the Maraschino liqueur? Both distillates share the distinctive benzaldehyde/almond flavor of the cherry stone.

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