Finding an old drink recipe to mix up is part of the attraction to all this cocktail lore. Sipping a drink mixed years ago gives you a chance to connect with folks a generation or two past. One drink that fits that bill is the Last Word. It’s been written about across the web, which is how I suppose I stumbled across it. The ingredient list is tempting. I had some Chartreuse and some maraschino picked up to make various forms of daiquiris. Rum comes second to gin for me. After making my share of daiquiris though, I still had a good portion of each liquor left over. The Last Word was a drink that could consume some of each.

The Last Word is made from one part each of gin, Chartreuse, maraschino and lime juice. I like gin, I like lime and I like the symmetry of a drink composed of equal parts. Very easy to remember after you’ve had a couple and need to mix more for your guest. I made one a few nights back. Not bad. The lime was too dominant. The maraschino also sticks it’s head up too much. Last night I played around with it a bit more.

Last week there was a Chartreuse ad from the 70s for sale on eBay. It gave a recipe for a drink called “Swamp Water,” six parts pineapple juice, one part Chartreuse. It struck me as a not-good-way to waste Chartreuse. That said, maybe mixing pineapple and Chartreuse together was worth a try. I made a drink substituting fresh pineapple juice for the lime. Not good, insipid from lack of acidity. Next try: 3/4 ounce of each liquor and the pineapple plus a 1/2 ounce lime juice. This was better but the Maraschino remained way too dominate. One last try gave this:

Last Word from the Swamp
3/4 ounce gin
3/4 ounce Chartreuse
1/2 ounce Maraschino
3/4 ounce Pineapple Juice
1/2 ounce lime juice

Shake and strain. Good drink for the person who likes maraschino. The pineapple was not too prominent which is why I suppose someone thought to put six parts of it to one part Chartreuse.

I had an “ah ha” moment at work today. I have a bottle of Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur, this from a run at making Ginger Daiquiris (see a theme?). I like that drink and think it is the best thing I’ve come up with to date. It was a short leap from that to this (second best drink to date):

Next Word
3/4 ounce gin
3/4 ounce Chartreuse
3/4 ounce Ginger Liqueur
1/2 ounce lime juice
dash of Maraschino

Shake and strain, garnish with one maraschino soaked cherry.

I used some of the liquor the cherries had been soaking in for my maraschino dash. It is a little red and did muddy the drink color a bit. Use straght from the bottle maraschino if you want to keep the faint lime color. The amount of lime juice to use could vary with the acidity of your limes.

There is plenty of maraschino aroma off the drink, but the Chartreuse takes center stage. The ginger is subtle and I think a perfect compliment to the botanicals of the gin and Chartreuse. I think I need one more to confirm that observation. cheers

More on the Last Word


I’m still on the trail of a Campari drink (other than the Negroni) I like. The first issue of Imbibe included a reader submitted recipe for the Orange Viola – Campari, gin and passion fruit syrup. It is essentially a Negroni but with the sweet coming from the fruit syrup. I tried to track down passion fruit syrup and even passion fruits locally but no luck. (Monin has the syrup, but it seems too hot right now to have it shipped). An idea came to me one night – if you could substitute syrup for the vermouth, why not substitute another syrup for the passion fruit? Here goes:

Orange syrup

  • 1 cup fresh squeezed, strained orange juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • grated zest from the orange

Bring it all to boil and simmer for a few minutes. Strain and cool. Save the zest and let it dry – it is candied orange peel that is quite tasty.

ACG Orange Viola

  • 1 1/2 oz gin
  • 3/4 oz Campari
  • 3/4 oz Orange syrup

Good, taste like a Negroni with an orange edge. The original recipe only calls for a 1/2 oz of syrup. Mine wasn’t sweet enough with just that amount so we adjusted upwards. I suppose you could use other commercally prepared syrups as well. You might need to run some test drinks to get the sweetness level right.

Thinking back to my peaches – I made a peach syrup:

  • 1 1/2 pounds of ripe peach flesh, diced
  • 1/2 cup of sugar

Simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and cool. Add 1 tsp of lemon juice. Save the fruit, it is also quite tasty.

This yields about 3/4 cup syrup. It is not as as sweet as the orange syrup, so you might want to add a little more. I will say that the delicate peach flavor was lost against the Campari, not an improvement. Still had lots of peach syrup left. Here’s where it was good:

Peach Bourbon

  • 2 oz bourbon
  • 1 oz peach syrup
  • 2 dashed Angostura bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a glass.

I first tried this in a bourbon sour but the lemon juice dominated the drink, so I omitted it and went the classic cocktail route given above. That one tasted like bourbon, wasn’t too sweet and had a nice peach edge. Keeper.

There was an emphasis on “Amateur” around here last week. I was pushing the envelop a bit with some drinks I made up. First I used some Passion Fruit drink picked up in Atlanta as a substitue for OJ to mix with Campari. Not terrible, but it was Passion Fruit “drink” not juice. That means it was only 25% juice and a little watery. I then came up with three bad ones in a row.

The Beet Infused vodka was pressed into service for a Gimlet. Something not good happens when the preserved lime juice meets the beet flavor. I got a kind of metallic edged liquid that was not appealing. Down the drain with that one. Next came a Tarragon infused gin Gimlet. Same bad result. I had put some work into the Tarragon gin. I wanted to like it. Next I tried it in a Collins with the Tarragon soda. Equally bad. No pictures for these – not worth remembering. I gave up and had a beer.

I have stained out the beet infused gin and beet infused Tequila. Based on the smell, and my lack of success straying from tried and true recipes, those two are stored away in the fridge for now.

The Amateur Cocktail family went out on a little local discovery trip this past weekend. Back in March, I found a small market that caters to our local growing Ukrainian and Eastern European community. I came home with some Polish pickles that were a hit. That was a good enough reason to head back together to pick up some more and see what else we might find. The kids found a couple of candies (sold by the pound) that they enjoyed. I found a bottle of Tarragon flavored soda. I had never even considered that someone would flavor soda with herbs. I’m flexible though. It was a pretty hot day, so I was thinking Tom Collins, or maybe an “Ivan Collins.”

Finally got around to it today.

  • 1-1/2 oz gin
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 4-5 oz Chersi Tarragon soda

Build over ice and stir,

Not bad. The color from the soda is impressive. Not sure I got much Tarragon flavor off the drink. Not sweet, but not bitter, I’d say it fell between a Collins and a G&T.

I’m going to head back for a few more bottles. After reading Gary Regan’s article on a souped up Tom Collins, I think I’d like to try it with a 1/4 oz of Maraschino or some Cointreau.


addendum: Well, nothin is new I guess. Turned up other references to a Tarragon cocktail. This one is from San Francisco bar Bourbon and Branch. They make a Collins with a tarragon infused simple syrup which I suspect gives a cleaner taste. More info at:

Closer to our endevour is this reference to a Tarragon Gin Fizz using tarragon infused gin, lemon juice and a Tarragon soda like ours: It sounds a lot like my Collins. Here again, some real tarragon flavor is introduced by way of the gin. A picture of the drink is here: It has the same neon green color from the soda, but interestingly, it is served neat. References to the event where this was served are included in several other blog postings. It must have been a hit.

I actually have a small tarragon plant in our garden. The trouble is, if I take enough of it to make an infusion, I’ll kill the poor thing. Time to look out for some in the local markets and hit the Costco liquor store for some bulk gin on our next trip to SC.

A friend in town turned me on to Agave Syrup a few weeks back. We were headed to Atlanta for a visit. He suggested a stop at Trader Joe’s to pick some up. I didn’t quite know what to do with it at first but figured it should work in a cocktail. It is a fructose syrup and therefore sweeter than sucrose. You can use less volume when mixing.

The syrup looks like honey. So, a cocktail with honey seemed like a good starting point. I turned up the Bee’s Knees. This was a spawn of Prohibition made with equal parts gin, honey and lemon juice.  Strog mixers to hide the bad gin. David Embury has a comment in his Fine Art of Mixing Drinks:

Small wonder, then, that this period gave birth to such pernicious recipes as the Alexander—equal parts of gin, crème de cacao, and sweet cream; the Orange Blossom —equal parts of gin and orange juice, with or without the white of an egg; the Bee’s Knees—equal parts of gin, lemon juice, and honey; and so on ad nauseam. And it is only by regarding them as a more or less logical, albeit regrettable, aftermath of prohibition influence that one can account for the many ridiculous formulas still found in the average book of cocktail recipes of today. 

Uhh, is it even worth trying one? Dale DeGroof tweaks the recipe to get the sweet and sour back in proportion (cutting down the honey). He uses honey dissolved in equal parts water to aid mixing and, I suppose, bulk up the volume. I tweaked it a bit more to come up with the Bee Sting. Less dilution, more flavor. It is a keeper, but serve it in a smaller volume glass:

The Bee Sting

  • 1 1/2 to 2 ounces gin
  • 1 ounce fresh, strained lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce Trader Joe’s Blue Agave Syrup

       (or a comparable syrup with 60 calores per tablespoon)

Place lemon juice in a mixing glass, add syrup and dissolve with stirring. (1/2 oz of syrup is equal to about two bar spoonfulls) Add gin, shake or stir with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Agave is the base for Tequila, so an obvious variation would be to use that in place of the gin. I did. It works great, but add two or three dashes of orange bitters to approxiamate a Margarita.

(Apparently this is how it’s done at Tres Agaves restaurant in San Francisco, sans the bitters)

I mentioned in the Lavender Syrup post that I had too much Lavender after my recent collecting trip. It was a bit of a chore to gather and I really didn’t want to let it go to waste. What to do? It smelled great, and I do like Gin…hey, Lavender Infused Gin. Why not? Infusing Vodka seems to be all the rage. One of the first articles in Imbibe! covered the topic. I’ve come across several articles on the web and numerous blog postings (just Google “Infused Vodka” to get started) and even see local bars using their own vodka infusions in cocktails. I knew it was mainstream though when my older brother started telling me about his homemade Lychee infused vodka.

I’ve played around with it a little in the past – tea infused vodka (Assam) and cognac (Double Earl Gray), and some ginger infused cognac. These were small batches. I couldn’t get into the flavors. I have some of each left and will probably come back to them. But for now, I want something more in line with my current drinking (it ain’t cognac and it ain’t vodka).

A little googling on “Lavender infused vodka” turned up a couple of recipes. All of them were pretty restrained with the amount of lavender to use. I started putting two tablespoonfuls of lavender florets into 75 cl of gin, but it just didn’t seem like enough. I added some whole flowers, with the stalks trimmed to the first row of flowers, until I had a total of about 1/2 cup in the bottle. I watched (and smelled) it through the day. A very pretty faint purple color came over the gin, while the purple flowers slowly turned green. After about 6 hours I strained it and then ran that liquid through a coffee filter to clean up the last little bits. That’s a Bombay bottle it’s soaking in.

I now have a bottle of lavender scented gin. No citrus in the house today, but I do have a bottle of Rose’s Lime Juice. Gimet it is-

1 oz lavender infused gin

1 oz Boodles gin

1/2 oz Rose’s Lime juice

1/2 oz 2:1 simple syrup

Stirred with ice and strained.

Verdict: Not too good. Notice I diluted the infused gin with some straigt gin. Even with this the lavender gave a medicinal edge that just wasn’t enjoyable.

Next attempt will be either a G&T, a Collins or maybe a Corpse Reviver. Updates to follow.

Cucina 24

The week before our beach trip was a week without kids. They were off with the grandparents. That gave Lynn and I the chance to check out some spots around town that were new to us. Our first night was a visit to the Frog Bar (for a nice Sidecar, sugar rim glass included) and then Sante! Nice experience at both. Thursday night we showed up at Cucina 24 without a reservation. Fortunately, there were high tables available in the bar area. A quick check of the bottles behind the bar and I spotted something that looked promising: Fee Brothers bitters! A bar with these is a bar that could shake up cocktails. Lynn ordered a glass of white wine while I opted for a Gimlet. What a treat – ice cold, well proportioned and served in a chilled cocktail glass. The bartender (and General Manager) Brian Candee came by to take our second round order. The cocktail menu has several drinks unique to Cucina. I was tempted, but when I mentioned a Negroni, I think Brian’s eyes lit up. He described his construction of the drink and offered that he used an artisanal Vermouth. I was sold. Again, well proportioned and balanced. Served on the rocks (at my request). Best one I’ve ever had.

While I choose to drink my dinner that night, Lynn went for an order of Bucatini Carbonara. Quite good (I sampled liberally). Further conversation with Brian turned up that he makes his sour mix fresh daily – “Six lemons and six limes.” Was it possible? Had I died and found a little piece of cocktail heaven? He really cares about what goes in the glass. The obvious attention to the small details at the bar are hopefully an indication of attention paid to other aspects of the restaurant. This one’s a keeper. We’ll be back. Maybe with a reservation, or maybe we’ll just hang at the bar.

Three out of three olives
(Need a graphic for that one)

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