Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The Last Word


Seattle Times - "Prominent Seattle bartender Murray Stenson dies at age 74"

"Stenson’s legacy, though, will likely be tied to The Last Word, the obscure cocktail that he made famous.

A collector of rare cocktail books, Stenson was leafing through the 1951 bartenders guide “Bottoms Up” by Ted Saucier, when he came across a pre-Prohibition-era gin drink that had originated at the Detroit Athletic Club.

Made with gin, fresh-squeezed lime juice, maraschino liqueur and green Chartreuse, The Last Word is a balance of sweet-and-sour, with a robust herbaceous tone.

The drink became a cult classic in the Seattle area around 2005, then made its way to the Portland bar scene and was eventually picked up at cocktail dens in New York City. The Last Word then started to appear on drink menus in Chicago and San Francisco and spread to several cities in Europe — especially around London and Amsterdam — and beyond.

Jim Meehan, the co-founder of PDT in New York’s East Village, one of the world’s most famous cocktail bars, called Stenson not just a Seattle star but an international figure.

There is a worldwide shortage of Chartreuse now, and the drink that’s most associated with this French herbal liqueur is The Last Word, Meehan said: “The Last Word put Chartreuse on the map. That is a good barometer of Murray’s reach.”

The cocktail resurgence that started in 2004 helped turn Stenson into a rock star in the industry, as mixologist wannabes sat at Zig Zag Café, taking copious notes in their Moleskine notebooks, while watching Stenson stir drinks and quizzing him about lost classics.

“Murray was a mentor, before we ever talked about mentors,” said Paul Clarke, executive editor of Imbibe magazine. “Bartenders would come to his bar to listen, and to taste, and to watch, and to learn. He never sought the spotlight, but he knew what he meant to other bartenders in Seattle, and he took that role seriously. The Last Word may be Murray’s most lasting gift to the cocktail world, but the contributions he made to Seattle’s bar culture run much deeper than any drink.”"

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