Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

The Modern Bar Cart Podcast

Apr 11, 2024

In this Seattle cocktail retrospective with Paul Clarke, Editor in Chief of Imbibe Magazine, some of the topics we discuss include:

  • How Paul began his drinks journey in the early days of the cocktail renaissance and became a regular at the ZigZag Cafe, a Seattle cocktail den that rose to prominence thanks, in large part, to a bartender named Murray Stenson.

  • The fascinating gravitational pull that Murray exerted, both within professional hospitality circles and on the community of cocktail enthusiasts who congregated at his bar. 

  • How Murray resurrected The Last Word cocktail from the pages of a forgotten 1950s cocktail book and why his quest for the weird, wonderful, and esoteric extended far beyond cocktails.

  • We also examine hospitality through the lens of an old-school bartender, someone who understood that the people are more important than the drinks - and we try to collect some takeaways for young bartenders who are just starting out on their hospitality journey.

  • Along the way, we consider the merits of large vinyl collections and a lifelong fascination with music, the simple pleasure of spilling “your unique weirdness” to the bartender after a couple drinks, why Murray was “too cool” for awards ceremonies, and much, much more.

Paul and I pulled up a seat during our recent spirits judging stint at the American Distilling Institute’s annual International Spirits Competition to explore the legacy of one of the cocktail renaissance’s most beloved bartenders: Murray Stenson.

Upon his passing in September of 2023, Murray was memorialized for the major part he played in bringing The Last Word cocktail back onto the world stage after decades of obscurity, but he also played a massively important role in stewarding the overall cocktail culture of Seattle for many years.

So this conversation, like its cocktail namesake, is an equal parts mix of history, elegy, technique, and idiosyncrasy.

Featured Cocktail - The Industry Sour

This episode’s featured cocktail is the Industry Sour. To make this Last Word variant, you’ll need either ¾ oz or 1 oz each of the following:

  • Fernet Branca (A minty, alpine amaro from Italy)

  • Green Chartreuse

  • Simple Syrup

  • Fresh Squeezed lime juice

Combine these ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, give ‘em a good, hard shake until the drink is properly chilled and diluted, then strain into a stemmed cocktail glass and enjoy.

Developed by St. Louis bartender Ted Kilgore in 2011, I think of the Industry Sour as an offspring of The Last Word, designed, as its name implies, specifically for nerdy cocktail bartenders who are “in the know” about esoteric ingredients like Chartreuse and Fernet.

In this case, the Fernet kind of stands in for the gin, which works (since it’s a dry botanical liqueur). And instead of the double-shot of sweetness AND nuttiness from the usual Maraschino liqueur, the Industry Sour takes a half-step back with the use of plain ol’ simple syrup--something that any good cocktail bartender will have within arm’s reach

For me, the only real shame is that the pearlescent green color of The Last Word is replaced by a kind of muddy brown in this riff - but again, it seems fitting. Anyone can walk up to something as beautiful as The Last Word and understand they’ve got something special, but it takes a true cocktail acolyte to really appreciate the complex, aggressive symphony contained in the brownish soup of the Industry Sour.