Naked and Famous: The Mezcal-Based Cocktail You Have to Try

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Naked and Famous: The Mezcal-Based Cocktail You Have to Try

The dirty martini had a great run, folks, but I’ve decided that it’s time to move on to the next cocktail du jour. My vote is for the Naked and Famous, a complex, neon orange take on the already-iconic Last Word. It calls for equal parts mezcal, Aperol, yellow chartreuse and lime juice.

Before you decide that this drink isn’t for you because you dislike Aperol (or mezcal or chartreuse), you should know that the Naked and Famous is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s fun and unfussy, yes, but it goes beyond bar basics and offers something sometimes smoky, always sour and ultimately well-balanced. Let’s take a closer look at the Naked and Famous and learn how to make it at home.

History of the Naked and Famous

The Naked and Famous is one of many riffs on the Last Word, a classic cocktail that was all but forgotten for decades until one of Seattle’s best-known bartenders at the time, Murray Stenson, discovered a book of cocktails in 2004. One of the recipes listed in the book was the Last Word, a cocktail consisting of equal parts gin, maraschino liqueur, chartreuse and lime juice. The drink had been previously served at the Detroit Athletic Club, but after Stenson’s rediscovery of the cocktail, it became a sensation in the Northwest. Eventually, it spread, and these days, most bartenders will know exactly what you’re talking about if you order a Last Word.

But the Last Word doesn’t stand alone; creative bartenders have created just about every riff on the cocktail you can imagine. It wasn’t long before celebrated bartender Joaquín Simó created the Naked and Famous, my personal favorite Last Word variation, at the legendary New York cocktail bar Death & Co. It may not be quite as ubiquitous as its original relative, but it’s gained considerable traction since it arrived on the cocktail scene. Whenever you see someone sipping on a bright orange drink in a coupe glass, you can assume they’re in the know.

How to Make a Naked and Famous at Home

You don’t have to be an expert bartender to whip up a Naked and Famous at home. After all, it is an equal-parts cocktail (three-quarters of an ounce of each ingredient), which means that you don’t have to do much more than measure the correct quantities of the different ingredients. Add them to a cocktail shaker with some ice, shake it all up and strain the cocktail into your coupe glass—all simple enough.

It’s less about the method than it is about the ingredients themselves. First, of course, is the mezcal. Some prefer an extra-smoky mezcal that announces itself loud and clear upon the first sip, but if you’re not a big mezcal person, you might want to opt for something a bit more reserved.

According to Phil Ingram, Bar Manager at St. Louis’ Take Root Hospitality, “Mezcal is getting popular, but it still intimidates a lot of people just because when most people think of mezcal, they think of something almost overly smoky.” Not all mezcal offers the same flavor profile, though. “There are a lot of different ranges of mezcal, and, you know, some of them don’t have very much smoke to them at all,” said Ingram. “You can find some mezcals that are actually pretty vegetal.” He suggests Derrumbes for a mezcal that prizes those vegetal flavors over the smokiness that you may associate with mezcal.

Regardless of what kind of mezcal you prefer, though, one ingredient is essential to making a delicious Naked and Famous every time: the lime juice. Madison Barker, Bar Manager of NYC’s Down & Out, said, “My tip for making it that extra bit tastier is to use fresh lime juice. It’s just the slightest bit extra work, but it goes a long way.” As someone who is vehemently against bottled lime juice, I couldn’t agree more.

Switch It Up

The Naked and Famous is itself a riff, so why not change things up for a slightly more adventurous iteration of the drink? Ingram suggests swapping the lime juice for pineapple juice instead, claiming that it gives the drink more of a “tropical vibe,” which is perfect for the warmer months of the year. Barker said, “I bring the Aperol down to half ounce (from three-quarters in the original) because I like the vegetal flavors from the mezcal and chartreuse to stand out a bit more.”

But of course, you should let your imagination run wild when it comes to your own Naked and Famous riff. Who knows? Maybe your creation will be featured in cocktail bars across the country someday.

How to Make a Naked and Famous

– .75 oz mezcal
– .75 oz Aperol
– .75 oz Yellow Chartreuse
– .75 oz lime juice

Add all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake, then strain the cocktail into a coupe glass.

Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.

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