The USS Maine was dispatched to Havana harbor in 1897 to ensure U.S. interests in Cuba were protected during the Cuban revolt against Spain. In early 1898, the Maine mysteriously exploded and, blaming Spain, popular opinion swung against the Spanish and rallying cries of, “Remember the Maine, to hell with Spain!,” were repeatedly seen in print and heard in speeches.
Thus the sinking of the Maine, caused by Spanish malfeasance or not, was a precipitating event leading to the Spanish-American War. Fast forward 35 years and we have a brash and intrepid travel writer-cum-cocktail enthusiast in the form of Charles H. Baker giving us a cocktail hearkening back to that disaster, Remember the Maine.
If Baker’s tales are to be believed, he seemingly swam in a sea of second-rate royalty and constantly hovered on the outskirts of classic Hollywood celebrity. Extracting the recipes from his verbose and purple prose is an entertaining and exhausting exercise
Of Remember the Maine, Baker writes this, “REMEMBER the MAINE, a hazy memory of a night in Havana during the unpleasantness of 1933, when each swallow was punctuated with bombs going off on the Prado, or the sound of 3-inch shells being fired at the hotel NACIONAL, then haven for certain anti-revolutionary officers.” You can see why trudging through his The Gentleman’s Companion: Being an Exotic Drinking Book Around the World with Jigger, Beaker and Flask can lead to little actual drinking. Regardless, he eventually arrives at this fine recipe.
This starts as a basic Manhattan and then, with the addition of Cherry Heering and absinthe, morphs into something more aromatic and brightly flavored. The Heering adds a musty herbal sweetness and the absinthe brings a sharp twang that, thanks to the vermouth and rye, doesn’t overwhelm the drink. I suggest Cinzano for the sweet vermouth and Kubler or Lucid for the absinthe. Old Overholt or Wild Turkey are good choices for the rye though they deliver very different expressions of the drink. The cause of the Maine’s demise remains a mystery, whether this drink does it justice is not.
Stir well with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Gabriel Szaszko publishes at cocktailnerd.com and hopes February brings lots of snow on the weekends that melts quickly and cleanly away by Monday.