October 22 is the anniversary of the day in 1962 that JFK announced American reconnaissance planes had discovered Soviet nuclear weapons in Cuba. This was the start of the 13-day Cuban Missile Crisis. That’s good cause for another episode of The Drunkard’s Almanac and today we’ll mix the Remember the Maine cocktail. It’s a perfect Cuban Missile Crisis drink.
While this episode was probably the closest the Cold War ever came to becoming an all-out nuclear conflagration, it was not the start of a 13-day bender. We’ll cover it all today.
Naturally, you recall our discussion of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion on April 22 and El Presidente as the Drink of the Day. It was also National Cheese Ball Day but that’s of little consequence today, even if a snack is good. You see, the Bay of Pigs invasion left Fidel more than a little annoyed. His minions reached out to the Soviet Union to request the placement of nuclear arms to deter another invasion. Nikita Khrushchev, likely realizing that nuclear arms would be more efficacious than his prior stunt of banging his shoe on a desk at the United Nations General Assembly, agreed to the plan during a secret meeting with Fidel.
The Cuban Missile Crisis
On October 16 a U-2 spy plane spotted the missiles. JFK convened the National Security Council, and after some discussion they decided to order a naval blockade of Cuba. This when the tense negotiations really started. In the end an agreement was reached: the Soviets would remove the missiles, the US would promise not to invade Cuba again, and secretly the US also agreed to remove some missiles it had in Turkey that were pointed at the Soviets.
So in the end it all worked out and neither the US nor the Soviet Union ended up as smoldering holes in the ground. But it was tense and, let’s face it, JFK and crew probably needed more than a drink or two along the way. So now on to what is an appropriate Drink of the Day.
Kennedy was definitely a Daiquiri drinker and must have been distraught over the likely loss of Cuban rum. But we’ve already discussed some daiquiri variations, most notably related to Ernest Hemingway on June 9 for Fred Waring’s birthday and April 26 in commemoration of Chernobyl blowing its top. So we’re going to turn elsewhere. We’ll stick with Cuba alright, but we’re going to turn back the clock to 1898. After all, your correspondent never promised you a linear progression of logic.
Remember the Maine
So what happened in 1898? That’s when the armored cruiser U.S.S. Maine sunk in Havana Harbor, which as you know led to the April outbreak of the Spanish-American War. American newspapers, enjoying free reign with yellow journalism spawned the phrase “Remember the Maine! To hell with Spain”. This war was relatively brief but had significant repercussions. The US emerged as dominant in the Caribbean and got control of Spain’s Pacific possessions as icing on the cake.
Happily for us, there is a cocktail named Remember the Maine. It comes from a recipe described by Charles H. Baker Jr. in The Gentleman’s Companion (“Baker” for those accustomed to this valuable resource) and that is the Drink of the Day. As Baker wrote:
“Remember the Maine, 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.”
By the way, when you have the Cherry Heering out you might also want to consider a Trainspotter cocktail.
Remember the Maine
- Nick and Nora or coupe glass
- Add all the above to your trusty mixing glass.
- Add ice and stir. As Baker notes “Stir briskly in in clock-wise fashion – this makes it seagoing, presumably!” (Baker does not advise on whether this should be reversed when south of the equator, so use your own judgment.)
- Pour into a pre-chilled cocktail glass
- Rinse and repeat.