This is a tasty Manhattan riff that was apparently named for the 1898 press slogan, “Remember the Maine, to Hell with Spain,” which was a reference to the US battleship that exploded and sank that year while on patrol in Havana Harbor. Though unproven, Spain was accused of being responsible and the slogan helped provoke the Spanish-American war. It is a genuine classic that was documented by Charles H. Baker in his 1939 book, The Gentleman’s Companion. It is a spirit-driven rye cocktail that you prepare by rinsing a glass with absinthe in similar fashion to the Sazerac, or stir everything together in one go.
The simple preparation below can be made more sophisticated by lining the cocktail glass with absinthe first, either by coating the inside and pouring out the small amount, or using a spray mister. We have even seen examples where the absinthe is diluted with a little water first, or allowed to chill with ice—a technique we appreciate because the melting ice brings out more flavor and aroma as it dilutes the absinthe while chilling the glass. Either way, an herbal absinthe nuance will work its way into what is otherwise a Manhattan with a modified modifier.
Remember the Maine
2 oz rye whiskey
.75 oz sweet vermouth
2 tsp Cherry Heering
.5 tsp absinthe
Stir with ice to chill, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cocktail cherry.
The typical 2:1 whiskey to sweet vermouth ratio is preserved, but a quarter ounce of the vermouth is replaced with Cherry Heering, a cherry flavored brandy that does not get used very often. It does, however, find an important and permanent spot on our shelf to facilitate the Sing-Sling, the Blood and Sand and a few others. It’s actually nice to have another classic that uses it.
We see a lot of Manhattans made with a spoonful of syrup from the cocktail cherry jar, but this has always seemed like the mark of a sweet tooth or someone who refuses to admit they need to replace old vermouth. Remember the Maine is a better way to go. The spiciness of the rye helps it stand up to the dark herb and fruit flavors of the vermouth/cherry liqueur combo, while the anise note from the tiny amount of absinthe adds even more complexity and interest. This is also a drink that could be prepared in large batches for bottling or barrel-aging.
We opted for an absinthe mist over a frozen coupe. Getting the glass ultra cold first also produces micro condensation so that the absinthe mist starts to louche as soon as it hits the glass giving a slightly hazy appearance while releasing all of the potent aromatics. After the stir and strain we can smell the absinthe even before the first sip.
The flavor is familiar like a Manhattan but softer in a way that is not overly sweet. The Cherry Heering helps take the edge off of the spirit at the same time that it blends with the vermouth bringing the two together. It should not be a surprise that in this recipe it is playing the role of cocktail bitters. Without breaking the bank, Cinzano vermouth in our rendition is balanced by George Dickel Rye which remains a bit peppery to remind us that this drink is spirit-driven. This is a very good cocktail!