Discover more from Wonkette
Welcome To Wonkette Happy Hour, With This Week's Cocktail, Remember The Maine!
I'm going to keep pouring them strong until the news stops sucking.
Greetings, Wonketeers! I’m Hooper, your bartender. I’m on a rye whiskey kick right now. I recently encountered a pre-Prohibition cocktail that may well date before the turn of the century (the one before the latest one, the 1890s; what a world we live in). It’s got a wild name, shows off how to use some ancient spirits, and tastes wonderful. And the history behind the drink is interesting, too. Let’s make a Remember the Maine. Here’s the recipe.
Subscribe to Wonkette. We have Friday cocktails!
Remember the Maine
2 oz Weller Special Reserve Wheated Bourbon
1 oz Campari Antico
½ oz Cherry Heering Liqueur
Stir all ingredients in a cocktail vessel briskly in a clockwise fashion until the glass is cold. Place one Luxardo cherry into a chilled coupe glass. Using a perfume mister, spray absinthe over (not into) the coupe glass. Add the stirred cocktail ingredients and serve.
This cocktail was first documented in Charles H. Baker’s book The Gentleman’s Companion from 1939. He recommends stirring the drink clockwise — “This makes it sea-going, presumably!” I guess he can be forgiven for being a bit jaunty over an international incident that happened 41 years earlier. The Maine sank in 1898. Considering how life’s going right now, it might be good to talk about what “Remember the Maine” means while sipping a strong drink.
The Maine was a US battleship, ordered to Havana to protect American interests during the Cuban War for Independence in 1898. An explosion gutted her while she was anchored in the harbor, killing 261 seamen. Initial reports blamed a Spanish mine for the explosion. The sensationalist publishers of the day, William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, lavished coverage over the “outrageous provocation.” Further investigation concluded that the explosion was an accident; vapors from coal in the cargo had caught fire. By that time, it was far too late. “Remember the Maine! To Hell with Spain!” became the slogan of the day. Two months later, America was at war with Spain.
I managed to find a bit of Hearst’s editorial on the matter, and damned if it doesn’t read like a Sean Hannity script:
To five hundred thousand Cubans starved or otherwise murdered have been added an American battleship and three hundred American sailors lost as the direct result of the dilatory policy of our government toward Spain. If we had stopped the war in Cuba when duty and policy alike urged us to do, the Maine would have been afloat today, and three hundred homes, now desolate, would have been unscathed.
It was an accident, they say. Perhaps it was, but accident or not, it would never have happened if there had been peace in Cuba, as there would have been if we had done our duty. And it was an accident of a remarkably convenient kind for Spain. Two days ago we had five battleships in the Atlantic. Today we have four. A few more such accidents will leave us at the mercy of a Spanish fleet.
At least we got a decent drink out of the whole thing.
Right. Let’s talk ingredients.
Weller Special Reserve Wheated Bourbon: Historically, this would have been made with rye whiskey; bourbon didn’t really take off until the ‘80s. But when I got a chance to snap up some Weller Special Reserve, I jumped at it. This bourbon uses some wheat and rye, in addition to 50 percent corn, in its mash bill. It’s smooth and mellow, and I adore it. Whistlepig makes for a spicier cocktail, but the Weller lets the Cherry Heering stand out without overstaying its welcome. Try both, use what tastes good to you.
Campari Antico Dry Vermouth: I’m still a fan of this one. Bad vermouth has a brassy color and smells off. This stuff is a deep red and tastes like red wine, but better. Splurge for quality. As always, keep opened vermouth in the fridge or it turns into that brassy, nasty stuff.
Cherry Heering: This turn of the century liquor has some great cherry notes, but will turn a drink into cherry cough syrup if you overdo it. (Actually, Cherry Heering is so old that it doesn’t taste like cough syrup; cough syrup tastes like Cherry Heering.) Use sparingly and you’ll be rewarded. It’s interesting how the herbal notes of the Heering and the whisper of absinthe fulfill the function of bitters in a younger cocktail.
Absinthe: Absinthe gets used in tiny, tiny quantities in most cocktails. If you spray a mist of absinthe over the glass (not in the glass), you’ll add that magical anise aroma to the drink without actually flavoring the cocktail. (No, it will not make you hallucinate. There’s an entire story of yellow journalism and corporate propaganda behind that myth. We’ll tackle that later.)
In summary and conclusion, drink well, drink often, and tip your bartender — donate to Wonkette at the link below! And if you'd like to buy some bar gear or books from Amazon, please click here to provide Wonkette a small commission!
You can find me on Threads and Insta at samurai_grog!