∴ Classic Cocktails: Remember the Maine

A bottle of Rittenhouse rye whiskey

I’ve been experimenting with classic cocktail recipes, some pre-prohibition. I came across this one on Tuxedo №2, an exquisitely laid-out web site with great photography and interesting drinks.

There you’ll find a well curated list of one-hundred cocktail recipes, beautifully presented and photographed, with historical anecdotes and ingredient lists. If you’re on the trail of something new and tasty, head there.

“Remember the Maine” is a variation on the Manhattan, one of my two favorite cocktails. This style generally incorporates a whiskey base, a fortified wine for balance, and usually bitters for depth and flavor. The Maine goes beyond, substituting a liqueur for balanced bittering and added fruit sweetness, and a little kick from an unexpected addition.

Beginning with a base of 2 ounces rye whiskey aims this cocktail toward the dryer end of the spectrum. For any drink so based, my go-to spirit is Rittenhouse 100. Widely available for $26-$30, its rich flavor and extra proof kick make any whiskey-based drink a step better. Bulliet rye whiskey is a good second if you can’t find Rittenhouse. With these two rye in your arsenal there’s little reason to go pricier unless you plan to sip it neat.

Two bottles of sweet vermouth, Vya and Dolin

A traditional Manhattan includes sweet vermouth, and today’s experiment does as well. For this duty I turn to ¾ ounces of one of my two favorites, Dolin Rouge. Sweet with a light spiciness, Dolin mixes well in any cocktail.

A good rule of thumb for vermouths is to use one you can enjoy over ice, perhaps with a splash of fizzy water. If a vermouth’s not good on its own, it’s not good enough for your cocktails.

The traditional garnish for a Manhattan is a cherry – but avoid those glowing red Maraschino globes and look for Bada Bing dark red cherries.

A bottle of Cherry Heering liqueur

Along those lines, Remember the Maine incorporates a dark cherry liqueur called Cherry Heering. Rich, but not overly sweet, Heering can be enjoyed as a digestive after a sturdy meal. Today 2 tsp of it will work somewhere between the dry rye whiskey and the sweet vermouth, and impart a cherry fruit flavor. Its mild bitterness ties together the rest of the ingredients.

We’re balancing flavors here, but unlike some cocktails where the purpose is balance-to-subtract (think of the Daiquiri), Remember the Maine is balance-to-build. We’re layering flavors to create a new flavor.

A bottle of absinthe

Our last ingredient comes from out in left field. Absinthe requires an acquired taste in its usual serving format, but here it’s used in such small quantity, ½ tsp, that its only remnant among the other flavors is its pungent anise. While a typical chilled water, sugar cube and liqueur arrangement is powerfully flavorful, here it complements rather than dominates.

We’re fortunate here in the western reaches of northern Virginia to have a distiller making small batch absinthe. My choice is Mt. Defiance Distillery’s Absinthe Superieure, its spelling a throwback to the liqueur’s French roots.



There’s no fruit juice, dairy or egg white in this cocktail, so we’ll skip the shaker and combine in a more refined manner. For this I break out the mixing glass and a bar spoon. After combining the ingredients in the glass and filling ⅔ to ¾ with ice, I slide the spoon down the inside of the glass and stir by keeping it there.

Don’t shovel the ice – rotate the spoon around the inside of the glass for twenty to thirty seconds. We want chill with a wee dilution and no more.

Using a julep strainer I pour the results into a chilled coupe, glassware from a more refined time, and garnish with one of those dark cherries.

Sublime. The Heering adds to the vermouth’s sweetness, equalling the absinthe’s pungency. Even at ½ tsp that flavor is right up front. Rittenhouse’s rich flavor and strong alcohol kick fit in across the palate, as you’d expect of a top shelf base spirit.

Take a roll over to Tuxedo №2 for the back story on this drink’s name, and more terrific cocktails.

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