The Remember the Maine cocktail was first described by Charles H. Baker in his classic two volume food and drink tome “The Gentleman’s Companion.” It was re-popularized (at least in New York City) by former Pegu Club bartender and current proprietor of Red Hook, Brooklyn’s Fort Defiance, St. John Frizell. The damn near perfectly balanced recipe is as follows:
2 oz. rye whiskey
.75 oz. sweet vermouth
2 tsp. Cherry Heering
1 tsp. absinthe
Stir with cracked ice in a mixing glass and strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a brandied cherry.
The important thing with this Manhattan variation is to make sure that the sweetness of the cherry liqueur doesn’t overwhelm the drink. Most cocktails that use Cherry Heering deploy some sort of extreme counterweight (large amounts of bitters, smokey scotch, etc.), and here the absinthe (combined with the spiciness of the rye) makes sure that things stay in balance.
Thomas Waugh, formerly of San Francisco’s The Alembic and now the bar manager at New York’s Death & Co, created a great modern “Remember the Maine” variation called the Red Ant:
1.5 oz. Rye whiskey
.5 oz. Kirschwasser
.5 oz. Cherry Heering
Barspoon of smoky mezcal
2 dashes Bittermens Mole Bitters
Stir and strain into a coupe.
Here mezcal and mole bitters fill in for the absinthe, creating an earthier, somewhat richer, but still wonderfully balanced drink. For the mezcal to really stand out you’ll want something extra smokey, so something like Del Maguey Chichicapa would be a good choice.
As a side note, it’s worth pointing out that St. George Spirits now sells an inexpensive 200ml bottle of their absinthe (pictured above), which is handy if you frequently make drinks like this or the Sazerac, which only require minuscule amounts of absinthe.