To Hell with Spain – a Modern Smoky Scotch Whisky Remix of Remember the Maine

This is a modern reimagining of the Prohibition-Era classic cocktail, Remember the Maine. It’s made with a lightly-peated (slightly smoky) Scotch Whisky, Sweet Vermouth, Cherry Liqueur, heavily-peated (very smoky) Scotch, Absinthe and a Maraschino Cherry for garnish. This intensified cocktail was created by Connor O’Brien, a Seattle-area bartender and was named by Justin Gerardy. The drink appeared on the Cocktail Chronicles, a cocktail website by spirits writer and Imbibe editor, Paul Clarke, shortly after its creation.

The drink was invented around November 2011. At the time, O’Brien was working at Vito’s, a revamped Italian restaurant and bar in downtown Seattle. A couple of his regulars dropped in on a cold night and ordered a bartender’s choice. They put their complete trust in their bartender. O’Brien, knowing they liked Scotch when it was cold outside and that they had recently been getting into cherry liqueur, started with those. He knew absinthe would work, but wasn’t sure where to take it from there. He added some sweet vermouth, gave it a little taste and realized he was onto something. He strengthened the smoky note with a little more Scotch, this time from a heavier, peatier, Islay, plunked in a cherry and this drink was born.

It wasn’t until later that O’Brien realize he had reworked one of his favorite drinks, the Remember the Maine ( It was one of his go-to drinks, so this remix was done on instinct. It has a lot of the same ingredients as the Remember the Maine, but the ratios are more severe. The cherry liqueur got a boost and the smokiness of the Scotch adds another dimension.

O’Brien’s guests loved it. He ended up making it for them regularly and when the bar manager, Justin Gerardy, asked for suggestions for the new menu, O’Brien offered this one. The only trouble was, he didn’t have a name, but Gerardy did. The drink was a Remember the Maine with more attitude, so he took the more malevolent part of the Spanish-American War rally cry, “To Hell with Spain! Remember the Maine!”

The full history of that phrase has some dark roots to it, but this was just a reference to the Prohibition-era drink. And even that drink was alluding to the past. The Remember the Maine was created in Cuba and at the time, Batista was fighting what turned out to be his first coup. It was bloody and ugly. And in 1933, perhaps the rally cry from the 1898 war over Cuban governance seemed a lot more straight-forward. It was from a by-gone era that seemed simpler because it happened a generation ago. And the Remember the Maine was a drink with a toast built right into the name.

The To Hell with Spain is a little more tongue-in-cheek. It wouldn’t make much sense for a toast (unless it was during the World Cup, then all bets are off).

O’Brien used Johnnie Walker Double Black for the base, Carpano Antica, Cherry Heering, Laphroaig for the Islay and Pacifique for the absinthe. He allowed that the ratios can be tinkered with to accommodate the specific brands. With that in mind, since I was using the Great King Street Glasgow Blend, which has a slightly stronger smoky quotient than Double Black, I probably should’ve cut back on the Peat Monster, but I like it with some real smoky fangs to it, so I left the ratios as is. However, feel free to make the adjustments you need with the bottles you’re using.

The flavors in this one don’t hold back. They are all pretty strong and yet somehow achieve a balance of boldness. It’s not going to replace its progenitor, but it’s a great sequel with it’s own sense of style. Think Alien and Aliens, only in liquid form. Cheers!

2 oz Lightly-Peated Scotch
0.5 oz Sweet Vermouth
0.25 oz Cherry Liqueur
0.25 oz Heavily-Peated Scotch
3 dashes Absinthe
garnish Maraschino Cherry

Stir with ice. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a cherry.

Fever Pitch 02 by Håkan Eriksson
via Epidemic Sound

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Featured in This Episode:

Great King Street – Glasgow Blend

Combier Rouge (Cherry Liqueur)

Vya Sweet Vermouth

Copper & Kings Absinthe Blanche

Peat Monster

Luxardo Maraschino Cherries

Bar Tools:

Coupe Glass (4.5 oz)

OXO Measuring Cup (2 oz)

Bitters Dasher


Julep Strainer

Mixing Glass


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