On paper at least, the Last Word cocktail is a drink that has no business succeeding. But there’s something about the way the funky sweetness of maraschino plays off the tang of the lime, the herbal hit of the chartreuse and the dry, bracing gin that’s given it about 80 years’ worth of success.
It has another thing going for it, too: it’s just four ingredients, mixed in equal parts. Nothing more to remember than the ingredients, measured out at 3/4 ounce each. Or one-and-a-half ounces each if you’re feeling ambitious.
Recipes like these are the easiest, most turnkey formulas in the cocktail world. They have names like the Negroni, the Boulavardier and, the Corpse Reviver No. 2. They’re also the subject of a great new cocktail book by Kara Newman, Shake. Stir. Sip: More than 50 Effortless Cocktails Made in Equal Parts.
I remember when I first cracked The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual. Excitement and anticipation quickly turned to dismay as I realized that each recipe required copious prep and many ingredients that I didn’t have, or didn’t care to acquire. It reads like a graduate text for obsessive bartenders.
Newman’s slender volume, by contrast, is about as functional as they come. The chapters are organized simply as two-ingredient cocktails (Rob Roy, Americano, 50/50 Martini), three-ingredient cocktails (Bijou, Brandy Alexander, and the aforementioned Negroni), and four-ingredient cocktails (Volstead, Paper Plane). Beyond that, she gives simple instructions on stirring/shaking and garnishing.
That’s not to say that there’s no deeper knowledge to be mined here. While the focus is on equal-parts classics, you’ll find a few modern surprises, like the Trident (aquavit, Cynar, dry sherry). Newman also spends a little extra time riffing on drinks like the Last Word, providing a few contemporary variations. Substitute rye for the gin and lemon for the lime, and boom: you’ve got yourself a Final Word. Top the classic with sparkling wine, and it’s a Last Laugh. You get the idea.
It encourages experimentation in all the right ways. It’s already one of my go-to books.