Mixing drinks at home has never been a priority. We’ve been known to stir up a Negroni now and again — it’s such an easy drink, I basically eyeball it — but the days of Craig shaking up Sidecars at dinner parties has been in steep decline ever since I noticed how much more clean-up is involved (the shaker, the extra glassware, the jigger, etc). Plus Craig always leaves the bottles with the caps off on my cutting board as I’m trying to get dinner together and it drives me crazy.
All of that changed under our current circumstances. We’ve been mixing up cocktails on the regular, with Craig reclaiming the mantle as our resident mixologist. His favorite drink to make is a Paper Plane, which is a surprising combination of Aperol, Amaro, Bourbon, and lemon juice: producing a bright, summery drink despite the presence of a wintery spirit. He also makes a mean gin martini, a fizzy gin and tonic (the day he told me to buy “bespoke tonic water,” I knew we’d become monsters), and an excellent classic daiquiri. And now we’re making even more sophisticated cocktails with the arrival of David Lebovitz’s Drinking French.
David’s book is a tonic for the weary drinker’s soul. It opens you up to a world of spirits you may have never heard of, especially if the bars you frequent are more known for their loudly belted show tunes than their potent potables. Before Drinking French, I knew very little about Chartreuse, the almost neon green liquor that Carthusian monks made after a French army officer in 1605 gifted them with the recipe. As David writes, “The recipe still remains a secret today, and only two of the monks know the ingredients. For security reasons, they don’t travel together.”
David’s voice is as charming as ever and the book is full of terrific stories, anecdotes, as well as recipes, not just for cocktails but also snacks (like gougères and chicken rillettes), infusions — like vin de noix, walnut wine that you make with red wine, vodka, cinnamon, orange, cloves, and a vanilla bean, plus 24 green walnuts (which apparently I have in my backyard, if you listened to my Nicole Rucker podcast!) — terrific projects for those with lots of time on their hands (ahem).
I chose The Last Word as the first official cocktail that we made from the book because it was a chance to try out two new spirits: the previously mentioned Chartreuse (which we received as a gift at one of our famous latke parties) and maraschino liqueur, which comes up frequently in the book (it’s also in the Aviation and the Hemingway Daiquiri, two drinks I’d love to try next.)
The resulting cocktail is light and refreshing, but also intensely flavored with the botanicals from the Chartreuse (there’s an anisey vibe) and the fruitiness of the maraschino liqueur, which has a more nuanced flavor than the fluorescent red cherries you’re used to from the jar. All in all, like David’s book itself, this cocktail lifts you away to a tiny bar in France and makes you feel like you’re on vacation without having to leave the pleasant prison that’s become your home.
It’s a great excuse to start making drinks at home again and when this is all over, maybe we’ll open a bar with craft cocktails AND show tunes. I’ve got the piano, and now, thanks to David’s book, we’ve got the Chartreuse and the maraschino liqueur.
The Last Word
- 3/4 ounce London dry gin
- 3/4 ounce green Chartreuse
- 3/4 ounce maraschino liqueur
- 3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
- Lime twist, for garnish
- Add the gin, Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, and lime juice to a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice and shake until well chilled.
- Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Hold the lime twist over the top of the drink and twist it to release the oils from the peel into the drink. Garnish with the lime twist.