The Last Word Cocktail

The Last Word Cocktail

While I wish that I could try everything and go to all the places that are suggested to me. I used to keep lists of restaurants and bakeries in Paris that I intended to go to. Then, invariably, a few weeks later, that list would get updated with new places and I’d realize that I’d never make it to the older places. (Or maybe I would, just not at the moment. But most of us know where our best intentions go…) The other issue is time, which seems to constantly be in shorter and shorter supply.

Thank goodness for cocktails. Each glass, to me, is a like a little vacation. A nice cocktail takes you to a new place, with whatever mix of liquors, bitters and fruit juices are in that frosty goblet. From the moment the icy liquid hits my lips, as it makes its way down, I feel like I’m going on a little private journey, which can all be adjusted depending on what you’re mixing up.

A reader sent me a particularly compelling message the other day with the word BEG in all-caps. Writing in all-caps is sometimes considered a no-no online, since it can come off as shouting. But through those capital letters, I sensed her passion for this cocktail. And when she closed out her message with “It’ll blow your mind,” well – isn’t that what cocktails are for? So I got to work.

The Last Word Cocktail

She’d accompanied the message with the proportions (thanks again, Kiki!), saying that she always doubled the recipe because she loved the cocktail so much. That prompted yet another of my scavenger hunts in Paris – this time, to find maraschino liqueur. Most of the stores that sell wine in Paris, and there are a lot of those, offer a closely edited selection of whiskies, vodkas, and other liquors, but don’t delve too far beyond the standard bottles. My bottle of Bombay Sapphire was bought at the duty-free shop on my last trip. I used to wonder: Who the heck buys liquor there? It’s so expensive. Now I know…

I hoofed it over to one highly acclaimed liquor store that specializes in liquors for cocktails, and not only did they not have it, but they’d never heard of it. Ditto for another liquor store that specializes in more elusive bottles. I’m often surprised by that because I’m not a cocktail or liquor specialist, and even I’ve heard of it.

The Last Word Cocktail

Then I realized that – of course – the Italians know about maraschino liqueur, which I knew about because I used to use it in San Francisco when making Italian desserts, or used it to add a touch to mixed berries and summer fruit, to highlight their flavor. So I hit one of the local Italian shops in my neighborhood, who had one lone bottle on the top shelf, which I grabbed.

The woman at the Italian épicerie asked me how I knew it and I said that as a pastry chef, I used it on fruit sometimes and in Zuppa Inglese. (In place of the traditional Alkermes, a liqueur colored by an insect, which is hard to get. And just for fun, I should try asking for that in a liquor store in Paris!) But I was planning to use it for an American cocktail.

The Last Word Cocktail

Once I had collected the bottles that I needed, back home I chilled a few cocktail glasses in the freezer and went to work. Because, man, after that…I was ready for a drink!

I juiced a few limes, added the other ingredients in equal proportions: gin, Izarra (similar to green Chartreuse) and maraschino, then shook them up in my cocktail shaker with a fistful of ice.

The Last Word Cocktail

The beautiful lime-green liquid came spewing out of the shaker and into the glasses, astonishing me with its vivid color and yes, the four unique flavors blended together perfectly. Thankfully, now that I have all the ingredients on hand, I can have The Last Word whenever I want. And who doesn’t want to always be able to have the last word?

The Last Word

This recipe makes two reasonable sized cocktails, although you can make one jumbo one from using 1 ounce of each ingredient. If you do, don’t plan on being able to have a second!

  • 1 1/2 ounces gin
  • 1 1/2 ounces maraschino liqueur (such as Luxardo)
  • 1 1/2 ounces green Chartreuse or Izarra
  • 1 1/2 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice

1. Chill two stemmed cocktail glasses in the freezer.

2. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice. Add the gin, maraschino, Chartreuse and lime juice.

3. Shake vigorously for 15 to 30 seconds. Strain into the chilled glasses.

Note: Maraschino is usually available at well-stocked liquor stores. You can get it in Paris at some Italian food/specialty shops and at La Maison du Whisky.

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  • adrian
    January 4, 2016 12:31pm

    Cheers! And Happy New Year, David :)
    Thank goodness these ingredients are readily available here!
    Can’t wait to give it a try.

  • Claire
    January 4, 2016 2:32pm

    The color alone drew me in! Then the list of ingredients and, finally, the name of the drink! Who, indeed, doesn’t want to have The Last Word!!

    Happy New Year!

  • Conor Brady
    January 4, 2016 3:32pm

    A rare example of a fantastic 1950s drink (first published in Ted Saucier’s Bottom’s Up). Unfortunately, it was completely forgotten until the early 2000s, when it was re-discovered by Murray Stenson when he put it on his menu at Zig Zag café in Seattle. It’s pretty much exploded in cocktail circles since then.

    If I could offer a couple of bits of advice: you really should use Green Chartreuse rather than Izarra in this. Izarra is a little too anise-driven, and the drink needs the full complexity and herbacity of the Chartreuse.

    Also, try taking the measurements down to 3/4 ounce (25ml) of each ingredients. Or else, you run the real risk of being on your ass pretty quickly!

    Glad to see you found Luxardo Maraschino – it really is the only brand of Maraschino you want to use in it.

    Glad you enjoyed it!


    • January 4, 2016 3:45pm
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks Conor. I generally prefer Chartreuse, but I’m out and I’ve had this bottle of Izarra ever since a trip to the Basque country and always looking for ways to use it up. (If you have any ideas – stop by!) But I do love Chartreuse and need to restock that. After reading this, a friend in Paris wrote & mentioned he had 2 nice bottles of maraschino from Croatia, which if I had known, I would have been over his place pronto. Or, invited him over for a cocktail, too.

    • Babs
      January 4, 2016 9:10pm

      Warms my heart to see an unexpected mention of Murray Stenson’s name. Wonderful guy – great drinks!

    • Shana
      January 4, 2016 10:29pm

      I was going to mention, I had it for the first time several years ago at the Zig Zag, and have favored it ever since. Now that I have the recipe, I can make it at home. Thanks David!

  • Julie-Anne
    January 4, 2016 4:28pm

    We drink rather a lot of the Luxardo maraschino liqueur over here in Hemingway daiquiris, but I’ve never heard of Izarra. I think my hunt for that here in SF might be like yours for the Luxardo in Paris. I guess I’m off to find chartreuse this week.

    Hemingway daiquiris were quite a thing in California a couple years ago though and we are still drinking them with all kinds of fresh citrus, usually with grapefruit. Another use for the Luxardo!

    • January 4, 2016 4:38pm
      David Lebovitz

      That daquiri sounds good. Now that I have Luxuardo, maybe I’ll give it a try! Chartreuse should be easy to find in San Francisco, although Izarra was purchased by a big liquor company a few years ago so it’s likely more available internationally. But Chartreuse what I would probably use if I had a choice as it’s a little “rounder.”

  • Hillary
    January 4, 2016 4:52pm

    My favorite cocktail! I’ve also had it made with yellow Chartreuse — the bartender called it “The Editor.” :)

  • January 4, 2016 5:31pm

    Sounds yummy, this reminds me of something I just had a cute little bar in downtown Orlando on Saturday, Its called “Staid in The Tropics”. It’s tequila, cilantro simple, lime, habanero bitters and then topped with coconut foam. It was AMAZING.

  • Mary in Canada
    January 4, 2016 5:35pm

    This sounds delicious! I’ll make it when I get tired of my fave winter cocktail: fresh-squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice with Campari on the rocks —2/3 juice (and don’t strain it too much, a little texture is nice) with 1/3 Campari. So refreshing on dark winter days.

  • Stephanie K
    January 4, 2016 5:36pm

    Great post! What Italian specialty shop is it? I often have trouble finding Marsala Wine in Paris (even at Italian shops), so I am always looking for more Italian shops to try!

    • January 4, 2016 5:38pm
      David Lebovitz

      Marsala can be a challenge, too (although oddly, I recently saw bottles at the Marché U.) I got the Luxardo at Idea Vino (88 Avenue Parmentier, 11th)

  • cindy m.
    January 4, 2016 6:04pm

    I love Last Words! I’m not a fancy cocktail drinker but I went right out and bought all the ingredients for this after I tried it the first time. So refreshing and so very very green. I like the glass you chose to serve it in!

    • January 4, 2016 6:39pm
      David Lebovitz

      Mine may seen particularly bright because it’s winter right now in Paris and the sunlight goes away around 4pm, and I have to dial up the exposure because it’s so dark. (And as much as I want, it’s probably not a good idea to make, and photograph, cocktails at 2 in the afternoon!)

  • Tom O.
    January 4, 2016 6:09pm

    I will always remember, I was hitting a few restaurants in Seattle, asking staff where I should hit. One bartender said Murray Stenson (referenced in comments above) is working tonight, head over to Il Bistro! I asked the bartender if Murray was working tonight, his response, “does he owe you money?” I quickly looked online for a pic and it was him. We played had some good banter. Before I left I said, I was told that if I visited Seattle, I had to order the Last Word, do you know how to make it? He smiled, said “I think so.” I was great watching the focus and intensity of a master craft his signature cocktail

  • January 4, 2016 6:11pm

    I looked at the color and wondered why it was so very green – it is decidedly a paler shade when made with green Chartreuse as it always is in the U.S., where the Last Word has become an iconic cocktail, at least among cocktail enthusiasts, so much so that it has inspired many bartenders to create many mostly delightful variations. Now I’ve never heard of Izarra before, let alone tasted it, but from what my online research tells me, I’m guessing from your photo that the one you used was the minty one, which doesn’t sound like it would have much resemblance to Chartreuse. I’m not saying that a Last Word with Izarra would not make a good drink, but I don’t think you should call it a Last Word. You’ve invented a new riff on it. Maybe call it the Basque Word.

  • Minott
    January 4, 2016 6:24pm

    Thanks for this great post. I concur with the above comments about Green Chatreuse over Izarra and using 3/4 oz rather than 1 oz for the amounts. Not only is the Chatreuse more complex but it clocks in at 110 proof and that extra zing, well, makes the drink really zing or pop. I have heard there is s newer higher proof of the green Izarra nearer to that of the Chatreuse but haven’t yet seen it in the flesh. Also I have tried Last Words with other maraschinos and suggest stick with the Luxardo. Again thanks so much for your cocktail posts they’re great, great fun!

  • Katie R
    January 4, 2016 6:32pm

    Happy New Year! I first discovered The Last Word at Le Perchoir (14 rue Crespin du Gast), so if you’re feeling fancy I highly recommend both the cocktail and the stunning view. Thank you for providing a recipe so I can try my hand at one myself.

  • Kiki
    January 4, 2016 6:46pm

    Kiki here! So glad you gave it a try. Last Word is all I drink anymore, cocktail-wise. I just keep going back to it.

    So, I’m responsible for the 1 oz recommendation, folks! But he did say in his recipe that it makes two cocktails, or one jumbo. I prefer the jumbo! Y’all must be lightweights :)

    • January 4, 2016 7:32pm
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks so much for getting me to try it. Yes, it’s a great cocktail. Someone on my Facebook page suggested using mezcal in place of the gin, which sounds amazing too. Time to stock up now on mezcal? ; )

      • Adam
        January 9, 2016 8:09pm

        If you replace the gin with mezcal, the campari with aperol, and the green with yellow chartreuse you have another amazing cocktail: the Naked and Famous. Invented at Death & Co. in NYC.

        • Adam
          January 9, 2016 8:12pm

          Sorry – swap in Aperol in place of the Maraschino.

  • Aging Ophelia
    January 4, 2016 6:52pm

    One of the best cocktails I ever had was made by a friend in Indianapolis, using maraschino liqueur, which was not available in that state then– he’d brought several bottles from California. It was called a Hemingway, also gin-based; it was crisp, cool, elegant, and unforgettable.

  • Susan
    January 4, 2016 6:57pm

    There’s a French version substituting Rhum Agricole for the gin – Le Dernier Mot, of course.

    • Catherine
      January 4, 2016 7:44pm

      oooh! I’ll have to try that one, since I don’t think gin is gluten-free…

  • Suska
    January 4, 2016 7:17pm

    Kiki made me a Last Word and it was divine. So grateful to be her friend!

  • Jonas
    January 4, 2016 7:20pm

    Swap the Bombay for Nolet’s a FAR superior gin!

  • Danielle
    January 4, 2016 7:30pm

    So glad that you found (and shared) this wonderful cocktail! And I loved reading all the comments about where people first tried it. It was actually created in the 1920s at the Detroit Athletic Club – and they’re still serving it there. If you’re ever in Detroit – and don’t have an invite to the DAC – be sure to check out the versions served around town. Love my Detroit!

  • January 4, 2016 7:46pm

    Santé et Bonne Année, David!
    The color alone makes me want to try it.

  • Karen Schaffer
    January 4, 2016 7:59pm

    Love The Last Word! I first had it at the wonderful but now closed Moss Room at the Cal Academy of Sciences. David, you could try using up your Izarra by making the Braised Rabbit with Chartreuse from the Silver Palate Good Times cookbook. Yum.

  • January 4, 2016 8:02pm

    David, this was the cocktail discovery of the year (or more) for us. We happened to have everything to hand, though my bottle of maraschino ran dry at the 35ml mark instead of 45ml. I adjusted the Chartreuse to 35ml as well, but had already committed 45ml gin and lime juice to the shaker, so the proportions weren’t quite true to your original, but it was still delicious! Very fresh, with a gorgeous balance of sweet and tart. Absolutely loved it, and couldn’t help drinking it in unseemly haste. Am now lamenting the empty bottle of maraschino. Thank you, and thank you to Kiki. This one is a keeper!

  • Ros
    January 4, 2016 8:10pm

    Hi – Would this work with vodka in place of the gin? I get ill from gin.

    • SMCinSF
      January 4, 2016 8:19pm

      just try it what can you lose?

    • January 4, 2016 8:21pm
      David Lebovitz

      I would try it with something more flavorful, like mezcal or aquavit.

  • lorena loubsky
    January 4, 2016 8:49pm

    My mouth is watering in anticipation. One question. There are a number of izarras ~ according to wikipedia one is dominantly almond tasting, one minty, and one izarra54. For the chartreuse version, there are green, yellow and vep (lengthily aged, like me). = what is your recommendation for which izarra or which chartreuse (o; Merci, Lorena

    • January 5, 2016 7:46am
      David Lebovitz

      lorena: I would use regular green Chartreuse. I don’t know the other Izarra liqueurs, but like Chartreuse, I used the regular “vert” as they call it, or green. (I’ve not seen the 54º Izarra in Paris, although like maraschino, I’m sure if I do some scouting around, I could find a bottle.)

      • lorena loubsky
        January 5, 2016 2:46pm

        Thanks David!

  • JoAnn
    January 4, 2016 9:04pm

    This cocktail sounds so tasty – and looks so unique without being too fussy. I like that in a drink. Kiki is a bonus. She sounds like a lot of fun!

  • January 4, 2016 9:11pm

    I was buying gin in Auchan the other week, and they certainly had Bombay Sapphire on the shelves. Perhaps you need to look in the “Grandes Surfaces” rather than dedicated booze shops.

    My current favourite cocktail is a mixture of sloe gin and white wine, a sort of kir, I suppose, but oh, it’s good!

  • Sarah
    January 4, 2016 9:47pm

    Looking forward to trying this – my favorite cocktail lately has been the alaskan – gin, yellow chartreuse, orange bitters (though I often use genepy instead of chartreuse)

  • MJS
    January 4, 2016 10:16pm

    Now that you have Luxardo Maraschino, another jewel-colored cocktail is the Aviation.
    Shake & strain: 2 oz gin + .5 oz Maraschino Liqueur + .25 oz Creme de Violette + .75 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice. Garnish with a Maraschino cherry or lemon peel.

    • GregL
      January 5, 2016 5:15am

      I second the Aviation…delicious cocktail.

    • Kristin
      January 6, 2016 7:47am

      I recently tried an Aviation at a cocktail bar and could only manage a few sips. It was an unappealing cloudy grey color, and the crème de violette was too much for me. Perhaps it wasn’t made well?

      • January 6, 2016 8:01am
        David Lebovitz

        There are some pretty sticky-sweet, syrupy crème de violettes out there. I see those bright purple bottles and don’t think I’d want them in my cocktail either. Tempus Fugit makes nice spirits from flowers, fresh mint, and fruit kernels, so I’d try to use theirs, or one that’s similar.

      • MJS
        January 6, 2016 9:18pm

        I wonder if they used syrup from Marschino cherries, instead of Marschino liqueur? It shouldn’t be cloudy or much sweeter than a Manhattan.

  • Pam
    January 4, 2016 10:39pm

    It sounds delicious. And those glasses are just killing me.

    • January 5, 2016 7:31am
      David Lebovitz

      I found them at a thrift store in the south of France. I love them too and was searching for the rest of the set – I only found two (they were €1/each), and there were none others in the store so I just bought a pair of them. We went back a few days later and they had the rest and – one of my biggest regrets: I didn’t buy the rest. My cabinets have way too many glasses in there, which was why I passed. But I really (really) wish I had bought them all!

  • Thea
    January 5, 2016 12:53am

    Try popping in a Luxardo maraschino cherry. Makes it all lux and Christmassy.

  • Mike
    January 5, 2016 3:30am

    Being an avid user of a granite mortar and pestle, I read the New York Times article on your love of that kitchen tool, and clicked the link to your web site. A most excellent blog of Paris and food! I spent 2 hours perusing old posts and wild garlic pasta caught my eye. I get one or two meals from foraging ramps each spring and had not thought of pasta as a possibility. I will this spring. Your post was from April 2014 and I will be living in Italy this coming April. I will watch for bear’s garlic in the markets. You might be interested to know that Chicago is derived from a native American word for the wild garlic place. Here is the relevant quote from the first paragraph of William Cronon’s Nature’s Metropolis Chicago and the Great West: “Chicago remained a gathering place like so many other gathering places between the Great Lakes and the Rocky Mountains. What distinguished it were the wild garlic plants that grew among the grasses and sedges of its low-lying prairie. From them it had gained its name: Chigagou, “the wild garlic place”.”

  • January 5, 2016 5:39am

    David – you hit a New Year’s home run- out of the park!
    I made The Last Word this evening and we LOVED it!
    If things go sour in the world of baking and chewing.. you may have a future behind the bar.
    Great way to start the year. All the best.

  • January 5, 2016 6:48am

    I cannot get over that color! And your writing – always manages to draw me in!

  • Lynette
    January 5, 2016 12:50pm

    In between your fabulous cocktail posts and some great parties, I’m slowly developing and growing my cocktail repertoire… But, I’m struggling to find the right ingredients here in Paris! Where are these liquor stores in Paris that specialise in elusive liquors? Would you mind sharing with out me having to BEG? ; )

    • January 5, 2016 1:04pm
      David Lebovitz

      There are several and Paris. Probably the best is La Maison du Whisky. The shop near Place de l’Odeon has just about everything. (I’ve linked to them at the end of the post.) Lavinia also has a good selection of liquors/liqueurs. I haven’t been to Sipeasy but he looks like he has a nice selection, in a smaller space.

      • Lynette
        January 5, 2016 1:10pm


  • minik
    January 5, 2016 3:45pm

    Oh yes, The Last Word! I ordered this drink once (after a long night of drinking) and it surely was the last word for me that night ;)

  • bigdirtgarden
    January 5, 2016 9:56pm

    David- Now that you have the Luxardo, you can make a Martinez as well. :)

    Martinez (stirred): 1.5 oz. old tom gin + 1 oz. sweet vermouth, .25 oz. maraschino liqueur + 2 dashes Angostura bitters

  • January 5, 2016 10:23pm

    Never saw that one! But it looks very interesting to me! I might try this cocktail when we have our dinner party at the weekend. Just the color of the cocktail is an absolutely eye-catcher! Thanks for the recipe!

  • Caroline
    January 5, 2016 11:23pm

    I just adore the Last Word Cocktail and updated it with absinthe, just a dash similar to another favorite cocktail the Corpse Reviver 2

  • Cate
    January 5, 2016 11:54pm

    In 1988 I happened upon my first bottle of maraschino liqueur Maraska brand in Izreal’s Epicerie du Monde (4eme). Never made a cocktail with it but ate plenty of fruit deserts soaked in it and it quickly replaced vanilla as my addition to whipped cream. Couldnt find it when I moved back to Chicago, so I would pick up a bottle to take home with me every time I would return to Paris. In many ways, my love of maraschino liqueur probably was the motivation for my own home-made liqueurs ever since. Thanks for the inspiration to try something more adventurous my current stash.

  • Krystal
    January 6, 2016 1:12am

    We were in Paris two summers ago and I saw several gentleman drinking a beverage about this color in the cafe we were staying near. We’ve never been able to guess what it was, especially as it was nine in the morning!

  • January 6, 2016 6:21pm

    Yessss! I was so excited to see this recipe in my inbox as I had something very similar at Alembic in San Francisco many years ago. The bartender mixed it up off the menu and called it a Femme Fatale. But when I googled that name, I came up with something completely different. That bartender’s Femme Fatal was exactly this drink, but with simple syrup instead of Maraschino and a mint leaf on top. It was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. I can’t wait to make this! And the photos are stunners, every one.

  • Maggie
    January 6, 2016 10:01pm

    I recently discovered this cocktail at The Normandie Club in LA (EXCELLENT bar, btw). The even more appealing part is my bartender replaced gin with mezcal. It blew my mind. The smokiness of the mezcal took this to another level!

  • Joan Munger
    January 7, 2016 2:01pm

    Wish I’d had this in December. My dessert course for our 20th and final neighborhood progressive dinner included after dinner drinks. We all strive for new and different offerings and this would have been perfect. In my next life…

  • Dennis
    January 12, 2016 8:58am

    Since you have the Luxardo, you might want to try one or two of the four or so different Yale cocktails.

    The most ancient Yale cocktail was made with Creme Yvette, but during the great American Creme Yvette drought Luxardo was substituted:

    Mix with ice:
    ° 1 ½ oz gin
    ° ¾ oz dry vermouth
    ° 1 dash maraschino
    ° 1 dash sugar syrup
    ° 3 dashes orange bitters
    and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

    When imports once again began, the Nouveau Yale Cocktail was born:

    ° 2 oz. dry gin
    ° ¾ oz. Crème Yvette
    ° ¼ oz. Luxardo
    ° ¼ oz. dry vermouth
    ° Dash of orange bitters

    In glass half filled with ice, stir all ingredients for 20 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a sliver of lemon peel.

    • January 12, 2016 3:20pm
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks for the Luxardo ideas. The first sounds great – right up my alley!

  • January 14, 2016 3:05pm

    As most of us are on a diet early January (right?) I’ll just allow myself to admire your photos (great colors!) and will try the cocktail itself in a couple of weeks once we are through this silly period of new year’s resolutions! Cheers and happy new year!

  • Mike Filigenzi
    January 17, 2016 6:46am

    Thanks for the info on the Zuppa Inglese. I didn’t know it was traditionally made with Alkermes, and we have a bottle of that sitting around that needs a use. (Corti Brothers here in Sacramento keeps it in stock.)

  • January 19, 2016 6:07am

    This looks so like one of my favorite cocktails. A Japanese slipper made with Midori. Super refreshing.

  • January 22, 2016 9:17pm

    This is wonderful. I heard of this cocktail before but never have Chartreuse around. Have the Maraschino though. Will be trying out The French Blonde – gin, lillet blanc, st germain, grapefruit juice and lemon bitters. Actually, may try a few.

    • akagracie
      January 30, 2016 1:43am

      And how was The French Blonde? I like David’s Last Word far too much and would appreciate something similarly dry but full of flavor.

  • Kyle
    January 30, 2016 12:43am

    It’s so exciting to see The Last Word is still making the rounds after the initial rediscovery many years ago. I first saw it on a cocktail blog in 2009 and have been making these ever since. There is something positively alchemical about the lime juice and green Chartreuse–it almost sounds gross!–but the whole is assuredly much greater than the parts.

    I see a lot of love for Luxardo here, but I have to say I prefer Maraska as it’s a tad drier and a lot deeper in flavor than Luxardo.

  • January 30, 2016 12:47am

    Wow, I’ve made this a few times now and I have to say, it *is* amazing. Absolutely perfect way to end the week, and only one is needed to do the job! ;)

  • Nancy
    February 2, 2016 2:01am

    I, too, am a fan of The Last Word (and of the Aviation!), but I have always found it much too sweet when made with equal amounts of gin, maraschino, and green chartreuse, so I use about twice as much gin as the combination of Luxardo and chartreuse. Yummy!