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Metropole Cocktail

Doing a bit of catch-up … we’ve been having lots of traditional “comfort cocktails” recently, especially Manhattans, especially when Wes makes them, as his Manhattan-making skills are vast and sublime. We’ve still been trying “new” ones (even though they may be decades or even a century old) though, and here’s one that came to us from Dave Wondrich’s stupendous book Imbibe!.

I’d seen this one around before, but the version he includes is the best I’ve ever seen, and the one that inspired me to try it, and fall in love with it. The original proportion on the brandy and vermouth was equal parts, but I prefer Paul E. Lowe’s “fine suggestion” of changing it to 2 parts brandy to 1 part vermouth, as specified in his 1904 tome Drinks as They Are Mixed.

Metropole Cocktail

1-1/2 ounces Cognac.
3/4 ounce dry vermouth.
1/2 teaspoon gum syrup or simple syrup.
2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters.
1 dash orange bitters (I used Regans’.)

Combine with cracked ice in a cocktail shaker, stir for at least 30 seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry — a good brandied one, or Luxardo cherry in syrup, not those neon red abominations from the supermarket, please.

This was the house cocktail at the Metropole Hotel, opened in New York a couple of years before the turn of the 19th Century to the 20th. The owners had previously owned another hotel called the Metropolitan, which had its own cocktail as well (for that one, “replace both bitters with 3 dashes of Angostura, cut the Cognac in half and add a barspoon of gum”). The Metropole Cocktail is to the Metropolitan, according to Dave, “as the one hotel was to the other: more or less the same ingredients, but stronger, spicier and definitely flashier, yet not without style.”

This one goes in the regular rotation. I’ve really been enjoying brandy-based cocktails this week, and I’ll feature another one tomorrow.


The Last Word

This is absolutely one of my favorite cocktails ever. I, and we all, have Seattle bartender Murray Stenson to thank for this.

About five years ago back Murray was flipping through a 1951 cocktail book by Ted Saucier called Bottoms Up! and came across the recipe for this drink, which was created at the Detroit Athletic Club around the time of Prohibition, and put it on the menu at Zig Zag. Once resurrected it became an immediate hit (in fact, has become the de facto signature cocktail of Seattle), spread beyond Seattle to Portland and beyond, and took the cocktailian world by storm.

Unsurprising too, as it’s a spectacular drink. Complex, herbal, tart, a bit sweet and yet very easy to drink, The Last Word can take you to another world in a glass. Seriously, if you’ve never tasted this drink you owe it to yourself to try it.

The most distinct flavor component is the French herbal liqueur Chartreuse (of the green variety), still made by Carthusian monks with a secret recipe that to this day no one person knows (three monks are responsible for the recipe, each only knowing 1/3 of it). Powerful stuff at 110 proof and comprised of 130 herbs, it’s a bit of an onslaught the first time you try it, but it’ll quickly take you under its spell. Balanced by the fruitiness and nuttiness of the maraschino, the tartness and freshness of the lime and the strength and botanicals of the gin, this is cocktail alchemy at its zenith. It shouldn’t work as well as it does. Equal proportions? That much maraschino? Yep.

When making this drink at home make sure you use a robust gin, as a softer gin will get completely lost in this drink. We’re talking Beefeater or Tanqueray here.

The Last Word

3/4 ounce gin.
3/4 ounce green Chartreuse.
3/4 ounce maraschino liqueur.
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice.

Combine with ice in a cocktail shaker and shake for 10-12 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. No garnish.

I’m a big fan of this drink, as are many others, but some feel there’s room for improvement. Bobby Heugel at Anvil in Houston wants more gin in his (“Hell, I want more gin in my cereal”), and feels the drink works a lot better with lemons than with limes. In fact, he says he’s stopped using limes entirely, and offers this variation as better suiting his taste:

Refined Speech

1-1/2 ounces Junipero Gin.
3/4 ounce Green Chartreuse.
3/4 ounce Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur.
1/2 ounce Lemon Juice.

Shake and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

“Now, clearly we have a very different drink than the original Last Word, but I think that changing ratios of this classic and switching citrus is well worth the experimenting. I rarely follow a recipe from a book. Sure, I start there, but ultimately the unique characteristics of the world’s spirits require adjustments in all cocktails. A good cocktail is the product of someone’s understanding of all the spirits and how they work together.”

Which one do you prefer?