The Bad Word: A Gimlet-Meets-Negroni Gin Drink That Anyone Can Love

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[Photographs: Vicky Wasik]

Like many married people, I've become a little psychic about my spouse's behavior. I know that he'll always want to stick around at a party in case the gathering eventually becomes fun. I know he'll always choose to scale the steepest hill in case there's a view at the top. And, given a menu, I can predict his cocktail order without fail.

He always goes for the weirdest drink on the list, the one on the strong, bitter end of things, especially if it's made with sweet and herbal Chartreuse. To be fair, he'd say I'm just as predictable: I've always left parties early; I'd rather take a long, flat walk than a short, steep one; and pretty much every time I have the opportunity, I'll have a sip of his bizarro Manhattan variation, but then choose the drink that's sour.

Everyone's entitled to their own order at a bar or restaurant, but at home, it can be nice to have a house cocktail—a drink you offer guests, or make for yourself, that doesn't require much debating and doesn't ask for too much thought. We have some friends who make Negronis rain or shine, and others whose margaritas take you back to vacation the moment you walk in their door. Given our differing tastes, though, my household has never come up with a signature drink, a beverage that speaks of both of us while pleasing any guest who has one in hand.

Until now.

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The Bad Word is one of many variations on The Last Word, a Prohibition-era gin drink from the Detroit Athletic Club that's sweetened with maraschino liqueur and Green Chartreuse and brightened with lime juice. The original cocktail basically disappeared for decades, but it was rediscovered by Seattle bartender Murray Stenson and popularized during the cocktail revival of the mid-2000s. It's a fun drink to riff on—here at Serious Eats, we've shared a spicy mezcal version, and one with elderflower liqueur instead of maraschino. Even The Paper Plane, made with equal parts bourbon, Aperol, Amaro Nonino, and lemon, is considered a Last Word variation. But I'm pretty sure The Bad Word is my favorite.

It starts with the basic Last Word template—what Dan Chadwick of Kindred Cocktails describes as "equal parts spirit, acid, funky, and herbal." We're sticking with the classic gin, lime, and Green Chartreuse here, but swapping out the maraschino for bittersweet, citrusy Gran Classico. "I like bitter added to just about any drink," says Chadwick. So he made the adjustment, and created The Bad Word as part of a cocktail blogging challenge, the goal being to create a great drink with something green.

The result is bracing and fresh in a grapefruit-y way—Gran Classico, which is often compared to Campari or Aperol, is flavored with bitter orange peel, wormwood, gentian, and rhubarb. You really do need the Gran Classico here; subbing Campari instead tips the drink off balance, toward the aggressive side of bitter.* The harmonious Bad Word tastes like lime candy up front, and herbs and pith on the finish. It's a gimlet-meets-Negroni that brings out the best of both. And, while I often find Chartreuse drinks to be just a little too sweet, Gran Classico's bitterness cuts the honey character and leaves you wanting more.

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This drink isn't just a middle ground between my sour-loving ways and my husband's bitter cravings. It's also the ideal offering for anyone who loves a fresh margarita but is starting to explore the bitter side of cocktails, too. I'm pretty sure you'll like it. And I'm kind of psychic about these things.

* Owning a bottle of Gran Classico isn't a bad thing, by the way: Try it in place of the usual bitter element in your Negroni, your Boulevardier, or your spritz, and thank me later. Or throw a party and use it to make a big batch of these aged-tequila cocktails.