What I did last summer

Remember Maine

Remember Maine

by Kevin Barrett

photographs by Nick Pironio

Do you get a bit melancholy this time of year? Summer is gone. I miss it. I know you do, too. It must be some kind of childhood nostalgia about careless freedom that saddens us, because the fall weather is enchanting in North Carolina. Even so, nothing can beat the carefree magic of summer.

I still go back to the site of my childhood summers in an attempt to recreate some of them. In Maine, I fish, relax, and completely decompress. When my dad took us there when I was a boy, we five kids loved it. It wasn’t the fishing, or the stars at night, or the food. It was the careless freedom.

Remember the Maine

Remember the Maine


This past summer I went with my girlfriend and my older brother and his family. Different parts of the Barrett clan make it or not every year. My dad’s last trip was many years ago, but to me, Maine is part of his legacy. He knew there was nothing as carefree as sitting on the water’s edge at night, sipping a cocktail, looking up to see more stars than you could find in a planetarium, and hearing the loons calling out to each other from across the lake.

Oh, yes, sipping a cocktail. That’s what this is about. Maine, unfortunately, is similar to our beloved North Carolina in that it maintains North Korea-like control over the sale of alcohol. In addition to that, the part of Maine I visit is far from any city. The liquor selection is dismal. Cold canned beer is all that’s on offer most of the time. It has its place, but I do bring my travel-sized bottle of Angostura bitters wherever I go.

Some of you know a drink called Remember the Maine. The name comes from the rallying cry for the Spanish-American War: “Remember the Maine, to Hell with Spain.” It refers to the sinking of the USS Maine off the coast of Cuba in 1898, for which Spain was blamed. The drink is old, but perhaps not from 1898. It’s a semi-obscure Manhattan-type drink that almost everyone enjoys. It’s got a touch of sweetness, and, if prepared properly, a hint of a rougher edge from the absinthe.

USS Maine c1897 LOC det 4a25824 by Detroit Publishing Co.

USS Maine c1897 LOC det 4a25824 by Detroit Publishing Co.

Remember the Maine

2 ounces rye whiskey

¾ ounce sweet vermouth

¼ ounce cherry heering (a liqueur)

Absinthe rinse

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with fresh ice. Stir well for 15-20 seconds. Pour into a chilled cocktail glass that has been rinsed with a dash of absinthe. Remember, the absinthe is mostly for aromatics.

Drink this when you want to taste history.

Now, while in Maine I was working with limited resources, so I’ve given my own drink a limited name as well. We’ll call my drink Remember Maine. You might think the Remember Maine is too simple, but when you’re sitting on the water’s edge at night in Maine, it’s all you need.

Remember Maine

2 fingers of bourbon because, ironically, there’s no rye whiskey available this close to Canada

4 dashes of the Angostura bitters you brought instead of shampoo

Ice, if available

Orange or lemon zest, cut with your fishing knife if you’re trying to impress someone

Combine all ingredients in a plastic cup. Stir vigorously with finger for precisely four seconds. Sit back. Look at stars. Listen to loons.

Drink this when you want to taste summer vacation.