Cocktail of the Day: Remember the Maine

“Hey, do we have any cherry brandy?”

Thus came the request from Wes as he was digging for last night’s libation, and the answer was indeed yes, we’re usually never without the Cherry Heering (or kirsch, if that’s what he mean, which it wasn’t). We still haven’t replaced our most recently drained 1.75l bottle of Maker’s Mark, so our new bottle of Bulleit Bourbon stepped in. Properly equipped, then he was off.

This one came out of Gary Regan’s The Joy of Mixology, and is an adaptation of one that initially came from the Bard of Cocktails, the great Charles H. Baker Jr. and his classic The Gentleman’s Companion, or Around the World with Jigger, Beaker and Flask. Both Wes and I are trying to recall whether Gary specified Bourbon or listed it as “Bourbon or rye” (will double-check later), but we think it’s the former. Having looked up Baker’s original rendernig of the recipe we see he specifies it as a rye cocktail and are eager to try that version. That said, when Gary makes adaptive changes it’s usually for a very good reason — balance and flavor being two big ones. Wes thinks that Bourbon might actually be his preference here, but we’ll see.

I like everything about this drink but its name, which refers to the “Gulf of Tonkin incident” of the Spanish-American War in 1898, in which our country capitalized on an explosion of unknown origin aboard the USS Maine and blamed it on Spain as a pretext for starting a war. (All this shit sounds sadly familiar, doesn’t it? Sigh.)

A little Googling revealed that the drink is also called “McKinley’s Delight,” which I prefer actually, and we speculated that it might have become a Bourbon drink when rye fell out of favor during Prohibition. Take two coming soon, but in the meantime here’s the version we thoroughly enjoyed last night.

McKinley’s Delight
(a.k.a. “Remember the Maine”)

2 ounces Bourbon.
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth.
1/4 ounce cherry brandy (like Cherry Heering).
2 dashes absinthe or pastis (or slightly less, to taste).
1 dash Angostura bitters.

Combine with ice in a mixing glass and stir for no less than 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. No garnish is specified in the recipe, but given the flavor profile of this drink a Luxardo cherry or brandied cherry would not be inappropriate.

Here’s Charles Baker’s version, from The Gentleman’s Companion:

REMEMBER the MAINE, a Hazy Memory of a Night in Havana during the Unpleasantnesses of 1933, when Each Swallow Was Punctuated witih Bombs Going Off on the Prado, or the Sound of 3″ Shells Being Fired at the Hotel NACIONAL, then Haven for Certain Anti-Revolutionary Officers.

Treat this one with the respect it deserves, gentlemen. Take a tall bar glass and toss in 3 lumps of ice. Onto this foundation donate the following in order given: 1 jigger good rye whiskey, 1/2 jigger Italian vermouth, 1 to 2 tsp of cherry brandy, 1/2 tsp absinthe or Pernod Veritas. Stir briskly in clock-wise fashion — this makes it sea-going, presumably! — turn into a big chilled saucer champagne glass, twisting a curl of green lime or lemon peel over the top.

Mighty, mighty good.

Thing about this drink is that it’s really starting to catch on, and nobody calls it McKinley’s Delight. So I guess Remember the Maine it is.

And even better is this version! This is the one we’ve settled on — it’s closer to Baker’s version, and make it this way at home all the time.

Remember the Maine

2 ounces Rittenhouse 100 proof bonded rye whiskey.
3/4 ounce Carpano Antica sweet vermouth.
2 teaspoons Cherry Heering.
1/2 teaspoon absinthe.

Stir with ice for 30 seconds and strain. Garnish with a Luxardo cherry.

Bourbon shmourbon. This one needs the rye, most definitely. Rittenhouse, preferably.