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A Familiar Four-Part Whiskey Sour
...the Final Ward is, of course, also a Last Word riff.
There is, of course, another whiskey-based, four-equal-parts modern classic that fits the description: the Final Ward.
I’ve noted this drink in passing before, but now that we are deep into whiskey sour-class cocktails, I wanted to come back to it with a little more analysis for several reasons:
to highlight the interesting structural connections between all of these drinks
to encourage you to rescue your trusty bottle of Rittenhouse Rye from the back of your liquor cabinet (or venture out to obtain a new one)
because it’s a delicious, complex, incredibly satisfying cool-weather drink that is also relatively easy to make with ingredients you can find most everywhere.
This drink is much more obviously a Last Word descendent than the Paper Plane, since it just takes the Last Word’s four-equal-parts formula of gin, Green Chartreuse, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, and lime juice and swaps out the gin and lime for Rittenhouse Rye and lemon juice, respectively. It’s peppery, earthy, sour, and ever-so-slightly dry without coming across as tart. I love this drink, and I’ve made dozens of them over the years.
It looks like this:
¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
¾ ounce Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
¾ ounce Green Chartreuse
¾ ounce Rittenhouse Rye
Combine all ingredients in a shaker.
Add ice, then shake until thoroughly chilled.
Strain into a coupe or Nick & Nora glass.
(Note that you can make this drink with any set of equal-parts proportions. So you can make a version where every ingredient gets one ounce, or a version where every ingredient is poured at a half ounce, or even a version where you pour two ounces of every ingredient — although I’d recommend splitting that one with one or two friends.)
The result is a drink that’s very obviously a relative of the Last Word, since half the ingredients are the same.
So if you’ve already had a Last Word, this drink will seem familiar the first time you have it in the same way that a sibling of a good friend will seem familiar the first time you meet them — clearly different, but with a similar personality and several features you recognize.
On the other hand, if you’re trying to convince a gin-skeptical friend (or yourself) to enjoy gin-based cocktails, you might try starting with this drink, and then moving on to a Last Word. Because at heart, the Final Ward is just a split-base 2:1:1 Whiskey Sour, with the high-proof, intensely herbal Green Chartreuse filling in for half of the whiskey base, and the Luxardo Maraschino serving as the primary sweetener. It bridges the gaps between a number of different drinks, and it is a good introduction to more complex cocktails.
This drink was developed by Phil Ward, one of the best, most innovative bartenders of the last 20 years. Ward is famously a proponent of the Mr. Potato Head theory of cocktail making, which basically works from the presumption that you can take any drink that already works and swap out roughly comparable ingredients and make a new, great drink. (If you want to succeed in making new cocktails, the most important question to ask is: What has worked before?)
The Final Ward works much the same way. The fact that people are still making it more than a decade later just shows how potent that approach to cocktail invention and modification can be.