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The Storied History Behind Detroit's Signature Cocktail

Sylvia Rector uncovers the history of an elusive beverage.

The Last Word
The Last Word
Don LaVange/Wikimedia Commons
Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

Paris has the Bloody Mary. New York has the Manhattan. Detroit has the Last Word. Detroit Free Press restaurant critic, Sylvia Rector shares details of the fascinating history and rediscovery of the Motor City's signature drink in a recent cocktail profile. Rector writes:

You could call it the last word in craft cocktails because it is, after all, the Last Word - a drink with a fascinating story that began at the Detroit Athletic Club almost a century ago and came close to vanishing forever before being reborn as a cult sensation in Seattle.

Now, a mere decade after its revival, it's being served in top bars around the world.

According to the Rector, the DAC hadn't even heard of the beverage the club was supposedly instrumental in creating until a blogger approached them with questions about the drink in 2009.

Nationally known bartender Murray Stenson, then at the Zig Zag Café, had put it on his menu there a few years earlier after finding the recipe in a 1951 book called "Bottoms Up," written by Ted Saucier, a publicist for the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York.

With some digging, DAC historian Ken Voyles found a dinner menu that proved the drink was served as early as 1916.

For reference the beverage is a made with gin, lime juice, Green Chartreuse, and Luxardo Maraschino.

While the club is private, curious craft cocktail drinkers can try out the hometown recipe at The Sugar House, The Oakland, and elsewhere.

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Have you tried the Last Word? Share your thoughts on the beverage in the comments.

Detroit Athletic Club

241 Madison Street, , MI 48226 (313) 963-9200 Visit Website

The Oakland

201 West Nine Mile Road, , MI 48220 (248) 291-5295 Visit Website

The Sugar House

2130 Michigan Avenue, , MI 48216 (313) 962-0123 Visit Website

Zig Zag Cafe

1501 Western Avenue, , WA 98101 (206) 625-1146 Visit Website