Cocktail Obsession: Remember the Maine

Mrs. Wonk and I have a friend who’s a cook and foodie, and every month or so he spends an evening at Casa Cocktail Wonk. The three of us work collectively on a themed dinner, including several appropriately paired cocktails during preparation.

Last time the flavor theme was cherry, so my natural first line of thought was Cherry Heering, the delicious, sweet liqueur from Denmark. Now, our friend isn’t a big fan of sweet drinks, so the obvious Tiki choices were out, and I’d already made a Punchy’s First Strike during a prior visit. The classic Blood and Sand (with corrected ratios) was already on the docket, but I needed another cocktail that made good use of the Cherry Heering. Thanks to Imbibe Magazine’s ever-helpful site, I quickly zeroed in on the Remember the Maine – a drink I’d heard of but had somehow never made.

The Remember the Maine is an interesting twist on the Manhattan. The classic Manhattan, you may recall, is rye, sweet vermouth, and bitters. The Remember the Maine drops the vermouth ratio down a tad but makes up for it with Cherry Heering, while the kick of the bitters is replaced by the exotic herbal-ness of absinthe. The typical recipe given for it is this:

  • 2 oz rye
  • 0.75 oz sweet vermouth
  • 2 teaspoons (1/3 oz) Cherry Heering
  • 0.5 teaspoons (1/12 oz) Absinthe (*)

Stir ingredients over ice, strain into chilled coupe. Garnish with a brandied cherry (preferably not cheap nuclear red cherries).

(*) There is disagreement whether to rinse the glass with absinthe, or include it as an ingredient with the others. I advocate rinsing–a little goes a long way in this drink.

The Remember the Maine’s origins harken back to the classic 1939 book The Gentleman’s Companion, by Charles H. Baker. The drink’s name refers to a phrase that became popular in the US during the lead-up to the Spanish-American war of 1898: “Remember the Maine, to hell with Spain!”  The backstory: The USS Maine, an American warship, sank mysteriously in Havana’s harbor, and rumor had it that Spain was responsible.

Much as I enjoy the classic Remember the Maine recipe, it also has solid bones for improvising. While the spicy rye provides a good base, I wanted to also incorporate some rich, full-bodied rum into the mix without giving up the rye completely. As well, my particular affinity for the flavor of Cherry Heering inclined me to bump its proportion but not make the drink substantially sweeter in the process. Dropping down the vermouth portion took care of that. My current recipe:

  • 1 oz rye
  • 1 oz aged, dry rum (*)
  • 0.5 oz sweet vermouth
  • 0.5 oz Cherry Heering
  • 1 dash absinthe, for rinse

Rinse chilled coupe with absinthe, discard excess. Stir remaining ingredients over ice, strain into coupe. Garnish with brandied cherry.

(*) Here, I mean a 5+ year rum, dry on the palate, with little or no added sugar. Barbados rums are a good example, and a dry Cuban style like Brugal could also work. I used El Dorado 5.

Remember the Maine

Of course, there are endless other variations on this theme. Swap out the rye or rum (or both) with tequila, for instance. And please share in the comments if you have your own interesting spin on this classic cocktail.

Author: Matt Pietrek

2 thoughts on “Cocktail Obsession: Remember the Maine

  1. Picked up a bottle of ElD 5 just this weekend, so I tried out your variation tonight. Very tasty with new Wild Turkey 101 rye and Spanish vermouth. Thanks.

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