State of the Union

Here's the Cocktail You Should Drink During Trump's State of the Union Tonight

The Last Word is what every politician wants. It's better in boozy form.

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It's important to double strain!
Caro / Olaf Jandke/Newscom

For many years, I wrote Reason's State of the Union drinking game, which typically included a list of likely phrases and topics, and instructions to drink if and when they came up during the speech. The idea, generally speaking, was to predict as much of the speech as possible, offer a few links to relevant Reason stories, and—within limits—to drink accordingly.

But as I have grown older (if perhaps not wiser), I have come to appreciate the pleasures of drinking well rather than drinking more. So this year I'm going to try something a little different. Instead of suggesting when to drink, I'm going to suggest what—in this case, a thematically appropriate pre-Prohibition cocktail called The Last Word. Because tonight, that's what everyone—from Donald Trump to Stacey Abrams to Bernie Sanders—will be trying to get.

In its classic form, The Last Word is a deceptively simple cocktail made up of equal parts gin, green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, and freshly squeezed lime juice—typically three-fourths of an ounce of each—shaken vigorously over ice and then strained into a coupe or martini glass. You might think of it as a bookish, retro riff on a gin sour (typically two parts gin to about one part citrus and one part simple syrup), but with the Chartreuse splitting the gin portion and the maraschino replacing the sugar portion.

The drink, which dates to 1915, was unearthed by Seattle bartender Murray Stenson in 2004. Since then, it has become part of the modern cocktail canon, the sort of drink you can order off menu at most competent cocktail bars. Like most of today's most successful drinks, it has become a template, spawning an array of variations and imitators, typically (though not always) involving a spirit, a citrus, a sweetener, and a bitter or herbal modifier in equal parts. Among my favorites are the bourbon-based Paper Plane, the clever all-booze riff Oh, My Word!, and, for those who want to pay tribute to Reason's current editor-in-chief, the rye-and-lemon-juice variant, The Final Ward. (Fittingly, Last Word riffs are among Katherine Mangu-Ward's favorite cocktails.) You can also substitute mezcal for the gin, making for an easy, smoky variation that is, if anything, more complex than the original.

I've been making and drinking Last Words for years, but even though I'm quite familiar with the flavor profile, it's a drink that still has the capacity to surprise and delight me. Made properly, it's herbal, botanical, citrusy, and delicately sweet, a complex yet perfectly balanced chord of flavors that rewards slow sipping and a little bit of contemplation (but not too much).

The Last Word is the sort of all-purpose tipple that works just as well on a warm spring afternoon as on a chilly winter night—or, in this case, on a surprisingly warm winter evening. It's a drink that will always make you feel good, even if politics makes you feel bad.

The Last Word

¾ oz London dry gin (preferably Tanqueray)

¾ oz green Chartreuse

¾ oz maraschino liqueur (preferably Luxardo)

¾ oz fresh squeezed lime juice (roughly the juice from one small lime)

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice, then shake vigorously until chilled—10 to 20 seconds (ideally you should use a single large cube for shaking; if you're using small ice cubes from a refrigerator ice-maker, err on the side of a shorter shake). Double strain through a cocktail strainer and a conical mesh strainer (to avoid ice chips) into a chilled coupe, martini, or Nick & Nora glass. Sip, enjoy, roll your eyes at whichever politician happens to be talking, and know that The Last Word in your hand will be far more enjoyable than any of the words that come out of their mouths.

(A few tips for preparation: Make sure to use fresh squeezed juice and to measure your ingredients—guesswork pouring will leave you with an unbalanced drink. Also, this is a drink that you have to shake, not stir. The goal is to both chill and aerate the drink. You should shake until the exterior of your shaker is cold, and a layer of bubbly foam should be visible at the top of the drink.)

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  1. Wrong. The only cocktail for the State of the Union is a Smoker’s Cough:

    – 1 1/2 oz. Jagermeister
    – 1 tsp. Mayonnaise

    Pour the Jager, stir in the mayo, and drink.

    1. Add a splash of taint sweat for a hint of umami.

  2. This is so on the nose for Reason I suspect it’s just trolling.

    1. Just be glad they finally grew out of the whole absinthe phase.

  3. Learning about the modern cocktail canon is why I come to Hit & Run…in addition to reading anti-racism screeds from progressive scolds masquerading as liberty advocates.

    1. Don’t fret, Mikey. Nobody is telling you not to be so racist. Some of us just laugh at how racist you are. You can still think of this as your safe space.

      1. Are there any Mikeys on here that aren’t racist?

        1. Do any of them worry about being told not to be racist?

          1. I hope not. I’d honestly be surprised if anyone here took anything anyone said seriously.

          2. What do you think?

  4. Don’t listen to Suderman.

    Two suggestions: Cuban Screwdriver made with freshly squeezed Sumo mandarin oranges, and/or a Greyhound made with freshly squeezed white (SWIDT?) grapefruit.

    1. Not to be confused with the Greyhound Bus cocktail.

      1. Which is of course receiving a handjob from a drifter.

      2. That cocktail tastes like cigarette butts and despair.

  5. You can all keep your girly sippin drinks to yourselves. Nuclear Accelerators or GTFO.

  6. I am not much of a drinker, and never understood why cocktails should be shaken, not stirred. Now I see an explanation.

    Q1: Are there any cocktails which should be stirred, not shaken?

    Q2: Are there any cocktail drinkers who care for the opposite?

    1. The explanation I originally got was that clear drinks should be stirred, because shaking clouds it up. Which is why originally, Martinis were stirred. And the whole James Bond “Shaken not stirred” was a little bit of flair to point out that Bond was a bit of a rogue.

      Now a day, everything is shaken because no one gives a shit.

      Shaking tends to water down the drink a bit more- ice gets crushed into slivers that stay in the drink- which I find to be a good idea when you are doing a full-booze drink.

      1. Ditch the ice and get soapstone.

        1. Makes too many bubbles.

        2. For a pure alcohol drink, like a Manhattan, I suppose you could do that. However, I find that a little water helps anyways. I like to smell a good whisky or gin, but without a little water, I find the fumes too astringent. (YMMV, of course)

          For drinks with juices, syrups or other mixers, ice water is a good solvent in which all the flavors can mingle. Again, YMMV, but I do understand the appeal.

          Certainly with a fizz (any drink with egg white) you want a lot of shaking to aerate it. If you REALLY don’t want it watered down, I would think steel ball bearings would be better.

        3. I thought that top of the line non-ice chillers were stainless steel.

          I have some stone (probably soapstone) ones that work fine.I also have some cheapo plastic with some kind of refrigerant inside that are not as good.

          OTOH, some drinks I prefer unchilled; eg, single malt scotch, small batch or single barrel Bourbon or straight rye.

      2. I think I read that Bond wanted his martinis watered down so he could keep his spy senses honed. How a few drips of water in the same amount of vodka does that, I don’t know.

    2. Gin is “bruised” by shaking, meaning the top notes (the floral flavors, the reason for drinking gin) dissipate.

      1. Opinions vary, but even for a gin cocktail, if it contains citrus or a “creme de” liqueur, you want to shake. Example would be the Aviation.

        If it’s just the base spirit and, say, and aromatized wine (think Martinis or Manhattans), then you stir. “Bruising” the gin is a trope from the 1950s when housewives would make extra-dry Martinis wrong.

        1. the 1950s when housewives would make extra-dry Martinis wrong.

          Also known as the high point of American civilization.

    3. Shaking waters down the drink because you chip a bunch of ice.

      Real men always drank their martinis stirred to keep em strong, until that British pansy James Bond changed the culture. Now people want to see everything shaken and they have no idea why.

  7. Or maybe we could listen to the address with sober minds. Trump is our president and he’s speaking about things that affect us all.

    1. Trump has a sober mind. Do you really want that for yourself?

    2. …ponders for a moment… No, I think not. Make mine a double.

      This was by far the most pertinent and useful article I read all day.

  8. “I have come to appreciate the pleasures of drinking well rather than drinking more.”

    It is indeed a pleasure to drink well, but that is not the same activity as playing a drinking game.

  9. No arsenic? I’m sorry, but I can’t sit through the SOTU without some arsenic nearby.

  10. You mean to drink while…watching it? You people actually watch that shit?

    1. Not only that, playing a drinking game means listening to it.

  11. But how convenient that the ingredients are equal parts. I can quintuple or even decuple them without doing any math!

  12. That sounds like a cocktail I might actually like.

    1. Well, try it. Let us know whether you actually do like it.

      1. Well, I have gin and limes so I’m halfway there.

  13. The only appropriate cocktail is the Piledriver ? vodka (or gin) and prune juice, with a Red Bull chaser.
    Do to your toilet what government does to us.

  14. McSuderman sure loves him some girl drinks.

  15. I’m now taking bets on my question of choice regarding the SotU:

    Will Trump mention infrastructure, and if he does, will he pronounce it correctly, or will he say “infastructure”?

  16. The Last Word is indeed a nifty drink whose return should be applauded. I like mine with Old Tom style gin instead of London Dry, but to each his own.

    As for me, I’ll skip the speech and drink a couple of Singapore Slings (the real ones with Cherry Herring and Benedictine, not the Applebee’s version). It’s a boat drink, and where I’m at it’s 20 degrees and the hockey game’s on.

  17. The Last Word is indeed an excellent cocktail. What should be stressed, for those that might not know, is that maraschino liquer tastes nothing like those red sugary abominations.

  18. Gin is flavored Vodka? If so, can I substitute jalape?o vodka, because I really don’t like juniper berry flavored vodka. ‘The Last Hot Word’.

    1. Explanation…Gin is a Dude’s spirit. To me (not a dude) it tastes like old spice or irish spring soap.

  19. At Reason, it’s always all about the cocktail parties.

  20. An excellent drink that I first had at the Rickhouse in San Francisco. The bartender recommended it to me when I said I liked Aviations (another go-to gin drink for me).

    I personally prefer the Maraska Maraschino Liquor to Luxardo, though. More pronounced cherry flavor and less astringent.

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