If you paid any attention during US History at any level, you probably do remember the Maine – the American battleship that exploded in Havana harbor in 1898. While it was probably a catastrophic accident, the event was blamed on Spain, then-owners of Cuba, and played a major role in the run-up to the Spanish-American War.
Charles H. Baker, in The Gentleman’s Companion, gives nothing but his personal history of this drink, so whether the name is his or not, we don’t know. All he tells us is that this beverage led to a “hazy memory of a night in Havana during the unpleasantness of 1933, when each swallow was punctuated with 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.”
1 1/2 ounces rye
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
1 1/2 tsp. ounce cherry brandy
1/2 tsp. absinthe
Stir briskly with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass; add a twist of lemon.
I’m happy to report that imbibing this did not lead to any unexplained explosions. It’s basically a fancified Manhattan, and shares the basic rye/vermouth combination of that more well-remembered drink. The cherry brandy adds a nice touch, although the absinthe, as it often does, mostly makes me think, “Hey, there’s absinthe in here.” But it’s a good, complex cocktail, and well-balanced – not too sweet, not too bitter, not too strong, and very drinkable. Four livers, though maybe cut the absinthe down to a dash or two.