Emilio Villarruel
Emilio Villarruel
Director of Marketing

Tipsy Travels: Detroit's Last Word

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Tipsy Travels: Detroit's Last Word

This edition of The Tipsy Traveller's Guide to Globally Inspired Cocktails takes us back to where the journey first started - Detroit, Michigan.  A city of undeniable resilience, and unmistakeable charm, it's no surprise that prohibition era creation 'The Last Word' remains relevant (and delicious!) all these years later.

Traveling can be a bit addictive, the rush of unfamiliar sights and smells and tastes and sounds can transform even the most novel of local experiences into substantive, core-altering moments. 

As we find ourselves largely suffering from collective travel withdrawal, for those of us residing abroad the ever-present question of “Where to next?” takes on a new form - “when can I go home?”

While through the years where I call “home” has changed definitions more than a few times, there’s one place firmly rooted in my cultural and culinary DNA; my hometown of Detroit, Michigan.

For those unfamiliar, or whose only glimpse at Detroit was through the lens of fellow-Detroiter Eminem in the film 8-Mile, Detroit can be a bit of an intimidating travel prospect. Detroit has far more to its rich history than just controversial rappers. The birthplace of the first mass-produced automobile (and the modern assembly line enabling it), the auto industry, and with it the city,  began to grow. By the 1950’s Detroit was one of America’s industrial giants, at one point growing to be the fourth largest city in the country as workers nationwide flocked there for opportunities in the newly dubbed “Motor City”. 

As the old adage goes, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall”. Though auto-manufacturers Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler are still headquartered in Detroit to this day, it’s hard to deny Detroit has suffered a fall from grace. A combination of decaying infrastructure, harmful public works initiatives, and race riots so destructive that my father could still point out the aftermath to me in my youth decades later, led to Detroit losing its industrial base and into a spiral of poverty and crime that led the once optimistic “Motor City” to be dubbed the unenviable moniker, Detroit “Murder City”. Unfortunately, with the crime statistics to support it - the name was well earned. 

Growing up in Detroit though, I never felt the gravity of the city’s reputation. In my boyhood, the city seemed a wild animal at rest - dangerous if provoked, but largely harmless. In short, don’t poke the bear. It didn’t seem like a city of murderers and miscreants to me at the time, I could care less about crime rates, instead opting to focus on snowball fights, catching fireflies, and picking wild brambleberries while playing with the neighborhood kids. 

As I grew older, so grew my appreciation for the city - quick to defend my hometown against critical voices, citing the city’s wide-ranging cultural impact with everything from the birth of techno to the Coney Dog (a flavor-filled riff on a traditional NY hot dog covered with a ground beef heart chili, diced onions, and a smattering of mustard). In fact, it’s no real surprise I grew into a love of travel and food. Detroit's long industrial history brought with it waves of immigrants from around the world, and with them new worlds of flavor.

A quick jaunt through Detroit is like a culinary world tour, but with distinctly Detroit characteristics. The ubiquitous (and ever-competing) Coney Island chains serve gyros on the same menu as Coney Dogs. Local Chinese restaurants have been proudly serving up a fried and gravy-adorned Almond Chicken - a fusion of soul food and Southern Chinese cookery far before “fusion cuisine” become a part of the modern culinary lexicon. You’re spoiled with dinner choices from shawarmas in nearby Dearborn (home to the largest population of Arab Americans in the U.S.) to Detroit Style Pizza - a crispy, buttery pie baked in unique square deep-dish pans (unsurprisingly of automotive factory origins). Naturally, it would be a rookie mistake to not save room for dessert, with Polish and Mexican bakeries aplenty offering ​​freshly baked pączki and conchas accordingly. 

In short, though imperfect, the city is a testimony to the beauty of imperfection. Through the rise and fall of economies, iconic cultural movements come and gone, riots, and more, Detroit has weathered the storm, and in its rebirth established itself as a city of resiliency and determination if nothing else. Like Detroiter Joe “The Brown Bomber” Louis falling once to Nazi-backed boxer Max Schmeling only to cement victory in a historic rematch - when Detroit’s people fall, they get back up - and even stronger than before.

In the spirit of celebrating and revisiting the past, but not mourning it, this cocktail is a Prohibition-era throwback, and decidedly Detroit in attitude - The Last Word. Described by mixologist and bar owner Phil Ward as, “a four-way car crash in which no one is hurt and everyone’s glad they met afterward” like the city it hails from, this classic cocktail is enjoying its own renaissance, and I guarantee after a few you’ll feel right at home no matter where you are.

The Last Word

Ingredients (in equal parts):

London Dry Gin (I went with Lone Wolf Gin to great results)
Green Chartreuse
Maraschino Liqueur
Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice


In terms of difficulty-to-flavor ROI, this drink can't be beat.
Simply mix all parts in equal measure and shake vigorously with copious amounts of ice.
Strain drink
Garnish with a lime wheel, maraschino cherries, garnishless (or in my case, an overzealous amount of edible flowers).

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