Storied Sips, a new book illustrated by Danish artist Poul Lange, tells the stories behind some of the world’s most beloved classic cocktails. Author Erica Duecy chronicles 200 years of tending bar and the resulting book of tales are a must-read for any cocktail aficionado. First up, a simple but strong libation from The Detroit Athletic Club, excerpted below:
At the Detroit Athletic Club, doormen have been greeting guests in top hats and coattails since 1915. Clubhouse to Olympic athletes, automotive titans and Midwestern politicians during Detroit’s heyday, the DAC was (and is) the city’s most elite gathering place. It is also home to the Last Word, a remarkable Prohibition-era cocktail. During that thirsty time, Detroit was a major thoroughfare for bootleggers, so the DAC elite didn’t have to go far for a cocktail. In their ballgowns and tuxedos, members snuck out the club’s back door to the Annex speakeasy, conveniently located behind it.
How the club’s — or, ahem — speakeasy’s bartenders procured the Last Word’s relatively exotic ingredients is anyone’s guess. But thankfully, someone whipped up the aromatic, limey elixir. Gin and lime juice, common bar partners, meet two unlikely glass-mates in Chartreuse, a bitter, herbal spirit from France, and Luxardo Maraschino, a bittersweet cherry liqueur. Lean in for a sip and you’re enveloped in a delicious cloud of cherries and herbs. Sadly, the cocktail languished in obscurity for decades after it was published in Ted Saucier’s 1951 bar book, Bottoms Up. But recently, dedicated cocktailians have resurrected the Last Word. To try one at the source, though, you may have to twist the arm of a well-heeled Detroiter: the DAC is still members’ only. Or you could try that back door.