Maintenance and Cure; The Significance of a Proper Cocktail

Martin & Ottaway was the prime sponsor of a cocktail get together for the Maritime Law Association Young Lawyer Committee at “Only Love Strangers” in Manhattan. It was an informal affair, but it had two featured cocktails. One was “Maintenance and Cure” and the other was “Batten Down the Hatches”

Tomer took a quick picture of the sign at the entrance.



First of all, the creator of these cocktails is to be commended for keeping the number of ingredients to four. We are presently in a cocktail historical era where bartenders somehow have come under the delusion that more ingredients is better.

It just makes no sense to think that when 7 good ingredients are mixed and one tastes the result, that one more ingredient all of a sudden makes it taste better. It is much more likely that the first seven ingredients were not a good combination to start with.

When I discussed this with Tomer he brought up Long Island Iced Tea as a popular cocktail with many ingredients. But let’s face it, a Long Island Iced Tea is not a cocktail, it is a raid on the white liquors in bar well, which mixed with some Coke and a lot of lemon, somehow, kinda, tastes like iced tea and will get you drunk out of your skull in no time. By definition it is not a cocktail, at best, it is a bar novelty.

A cocktail should be elegant, and the elegance should extend to the name. In college I had a trailer park mate whose single desire was to create a bar drink (I will note he did not call it a cocktail). One day he stormed into my trailer and to the assembled crowd of slackers he declared he had the name. His drink was going to be called: “Head on a Post”. He then went on to theorize that it would have peach liquor and peach ice cream and he mentioned other things, but by that time we had lost interest.

Oddly, about 30 years later I saw a bar menu that did advertise a drink called “Head on a Post” It did not have peach but consisted of another combination of inelegant ingredients. I did not try it, but wondered if my long-lost trailer park mate was the creator, or if it was simply a cosmic aberration.

As a cocktail, “Maintenance and Cure” was very much preferred by the young lawyers over “Batten Down the Hatches” and in the world of cocktails that is a happy coincidence. Great cocktails both taste great and have great names. “Batten Down the Hatches” is just a little too obvious and banal.

“Maintenance and Cure” is maybe not so subtle to the uninitiated, but to maritime types it is a great conversation starter at a cocktail party.

In case the reader happens to be at a maritime cocktail party where maintenance and cures are served, here are some cocktail small talk details to fit in with the crowd:

In maritime, the concept of maintenance and cure is ancient. It was first raised in Article VI of the Rolls of Oléron promulgated in about 1160 A.D.

Once the word Oleron is dropped, there will be a 99% chance someone will ask what Oleron is. It is then a golden opportunity to dismissively note that Oleron is France’s second largest island after Corsica.

The Rolls were a list of laws laid out to regulate the seaborne wine trade between France and England and Scotland. It has been suggested that the Rolls were created by order of Eleanor of Aquitaine. She was too cool a character not to wish that to be true.

In the Rolls, “Maintenance and Cure” requires that a shipowner provides medical care to a sailor injured on her ship until maximum achievable cure has been reached. In other words, disability insurance has existed in maritime since 1160 AD! It took a while for the world ashore to catch up.

The Rolls of Oleron were a seminal document that was the basis for the Hanseatic laws, modern maritime law and also the Pirates’ Code. Pirates adhered to maintenance and cure, and maintenance and cure still applies today in Admiralty all over the world.

Although Pirates adhered to maintenance and cure, American shipowners were less interested in complying with it until in 1834 a Harvard law student decided to ship before the mast to hopefully cure an eyesight problem. This young man was Richard Henry Dana, Jr., a Boston Brahmin scion. During the voyage he encountered good and bad Captains, some of which did not provide medical care to the crew. Dana published a memoir on the voyage called “Two Years before the Mast“, a huge best seller and worthy of reading today. Herman Melville even stated that Dana’s description of the rounding of the Horn was the best out there.

When Dana came home, he finished his law degree and, as part of a truly fascinating life, he managed to draw sufficient attention to Maintenance and Cure to make shipowners pay heed.

Ironically even in modern days there is no requirement for maintenance and cure for passengers on ships. They can only recover on injuries if they can prove negligence by the ship.

I can go on, but this should be sufficient to participate in a cocktail conversation on Maintenance and Cure.

I suppose “General Average”, “Inchmaree Clause”, “Liner Negligence”, “Bumbershoot”, “Protection and Indemnity”, Booby Hatch”, “Ball Seacock” or “Utmost Good Faith” will also make good cocktail names.

Probably a good idea to go on Wikipedia and bone up on those terms before the next cocktail party.