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If you are a fan of The Walking Dead who is 21 or older, then there's only one way to celebrate the end of the series this weekend: with a very strong cocktail. Partnering with The Sexton Single Malt Irish Whiskey, longtime cast member Ross Marquand (Aaron) has developed an official TWD beverage appropriately dubbed "The Final Showdown."
A genuinely delicious twist on a New York Sour, the post-apocalyptic libation reflects all the blood, guts, and general gore of the last 11 years. Don't worry, though — no actual blood or viscera go into the recipe... or do they? No, they don't, unless you're a sick and twisted member of Terminus. In that case, human flesh probably does factor into the preparation. Anyway...
"It’s got this nice kind of double entendre element," Marquand tells SYFY WIRE over Zoom. "The red wine on top of it is, of course, indicative of all the blood that we've seen on The Walking Dead. And I suppose the dehydrated lemon is maybe some dehydrated zombie flesh. Maybe not, maybe I'm reading [too much] into that. But it's just a fantastic cocktail and I hope people like it."
The Sexton came with the offer of a brand team-up shortly after AMC wrapped production on "One More," the bonus episode in Season 10, where Aaron and Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) discover a warehouse stocked with all sorts of creature comforts, including whiskey.
"I'm very picky with who I partner with because I have to like actually like the product," Marquand explains. "I'm a huge whiskey drinker and I was like, 'Well, let's see how this is, because I need to make sure [before] I sign off on it.’ I gotta tell you, I really just love this whiskey. It's so smooth, I drink it neat, I don't drink it on the rocks ... It's become one of my favorite whiskies on the planet."
Having studied marketing in college, the actor also found himself drawn toward the company's carpe diem-type slogan, You only have a single life. Drink a single malt, which perfectly jives with the overarching themes of TWD. "None of us know how much time we're gonna have on this planet, and that's what The Walking Dead constantly reminds us. It’s only appropriate to have a sponsor that gets that messaging [across] and drives that home."
When we ask about what his character would think of the cocktail — which makes use of the specially branded Single Malt (the bottle rocks a number of quotes and iconography from the show on its label) — Marquand enthusiastically answers:
"Oh, I think he’d love it. Aaron was always a politico. He was working in DC for years and years before the apocalypse. He's talked openly on the show about how he and Eric met in the Peace Corps and then they were doing all this NGO work in Africa. I feel like he's a very cosmopolitan guy ... And DC [is a] very cosmopolitan, very international town. So I got the vibe that this is a guy who could have a beer one night, and then a really interesting cocktail like this another night, and then a nice bottle of Chianti another night. So I think he'd really dig this cocktail and this whiskey in general."
Helmed by the show's longtime executive producer, director, and lead makeup effects artist Greg Nicotero, The Walking Dead series finale will effectively wrap up the conflict with the Commonwealth while still leaving the door open for a number of spinoff projects centered around a slew of fan favorites: Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus); Maggie Rhee (Lauren Cohan) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan); and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira).
With Aaron and Lydia (Cassady McClincy) currently trapped inside an RV besieged by a horde of the undead, Marquand pretends to offer up an exclusive scoop, joking about a convergence of The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad universes. "It's gonna be pretty amazing," he quips, going on to add that the vehicle was intended to pay homage to Walter White and Jesse Pinkman's mobile meth lab. "From what I heard from the producers, that was kind of a wink to the Breaking Bad crowd and I thought that was so brilliant."
Following his little prank on us, Marquand becomes more serious, teasing "a lot of bloodshed" and "some very poignant and very sad deaths that [are] going to affect people very intensely" once the swag song airs on AMC Sunday evening.
"I really hope that people walk away from this episode with a sense of closure, but also satisfaction," he says. "Because we've asked these fans to go on this journey with us for 12 years and 11 seasons and that is a huge, huge ask. The fact that they have been so loyal year after year — and kept us all at that studio for as long as we have, making these beautiful stories — it's a huge testament to the fans that we've even been able to do this many seasons. I just hope everyone knows how grateful we are that the fans made this possible."
He concludes: "It’s impossible to end a show where everyone is happy and satisfied," Marquand concludes. "I think about Seinfeld, I think about M*A*S*H*, I think about all these shows that were so iconic. You almost don't want them to end because there's going to be some people that are happy and some people that aren't. It's literally impossible to satisfy everybody. But I really hope that people see the hard work that we put into this episode, and they walk away feeling satisfied."
The Walking Dead series finale premieres on AMC and AMC+ this coming Sunday — Nov. 20 — at 9 p.m. Eastern.
If you're looking to satisfy your zombie craving immediately, head over to Peacock and check out the movie that kickstarted the entire genre: George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead. Or check out the SYFY original series, Day of the Dead.