I have been avoiding writing about one of the most famous New Orleans recipes in mixology. I have been avoiding Southern Comfort because it normally does not slake my thirst or even tantalize my palette. I don’t think I like the taste of Southern Comfort alone. I’ve seen it advertised as if the slangy “SoCo and Coke” will break through to hipsters. On the other hand, I also can remember a billboard at the Causeway/I-10 cloverleaf in support of Mardi Gras when Mardi Gras was in contention after Katrina. I am also aware that the Southern Comfort people are often found sponsoring or supporting various events in New Orleans.
Since I don’t have any personal stories to relate in regards to Southern Comfort or a cocktail with Southern Comfort, I bought a small bottle last Wednesday. I tried it with Coca-Cola, but it was too sweet. I tried it with soda, and still too sweet for me. I added lemon juice, but it wasn’t quite right. Finally, I added some chopped fresh mint leaves, and it turned out to be a pretty tasty cocktail. I don’t know if I was killing the flavor of Southern Comfort, but later in this article, I’ll recommend other recipes that I have since enjoyed.
Around 1876, W.B. Heron, an Irishman who’d immigrated with his family, was working in a Vieux Carre saloon on St. Peter Street. “It falls on young Heron to ‘rectify’ the sometimes rough-tasting barrel whiskey coming down the Mississippi from Kentucky and Tennessee. Using a secret blend of flavors (peach, orange, vanilla, sugar and cinnamon), Heron perfects his liquor and calls it ‘Cuffs and Buttons,’ a dig at the product of another well-known rectifier at the time, ‘White Tie and Tails.’ Heron’s concoction is a hit, relegating his competition to a footnote in history and establishing him as a young legend of New Orleans nightlife of the time.” (From southerncomfort.com)
Later, sometime in the late 1880s, Heron changes the name of the drink to Southern Comfort in expectation of the New Orleans Cotton and Industrial Exposition. The Grand Old Drink of the South is well received, and being smoother than contemporary whiskey is heralded as the gentleman’s choice for sophistication. So for more than 120 years Southern Comfort has been around, drinks drunk, cocktails created, and all the while the recipe guarded.
I recently tried a “Scarlett O’Hara” in a local bar. Though I didn’t order the same way Obituary Cocktail has it down, it was a flavorful cocktail; the sugariness cut by bitter cranberry and sour mix. I had to direct the bartender, but she did a fine job and the drink was good. McCaffety explains the cocktail this way: “To make a Scarlett O’Hara, take Southern Comfort, to honor her southern heritage, splash in some sour mix, because she had her moments, and finish with cranberry juice – after all, scarlet means red – and you have a cocktail that sums up the personality of the character for whom it was named. Drink a few of these and worry about it tomorrow.”
Once upon a time, Muriel’s Jackson Square also had a great recipe that included the local liqueur. I tried it at French Quarter Fest a while back—a peachy-flavored smoothie from the Muriel’s stand. It was delicious, and since the weather was so steamy, this drink was perfect. They called it Muriel’s Summer Comfort. This drink may be long-gone from Muriel’s today, but I managed to save the recipe:
-3/4 oz peach liqueur
-1 oz Southern Comfort
-Splash of orange juice
-1 oz. vanilla ice cream mix
Fill glass with ice, pour ¾ oz of peach liqueur, 1 1/2 oz of Southern Comfort, splash of orange juice, and top with vanilla ice cream mix. Pour all contents, including ice, into a blender. Blend all ingredients and pour back into glass. Garnish with orange twist or zest.
In my mind, it’s not always worth it to pull out the blender. I find that most frozen drinks are good on very specific occasions, but that the drinks sort of come out the same. Strawberry, coconut or lime is about all when it comes to creativity around the pool. For the above Summer Comfort, there need be no pool or occasion, because it’s just that tasty.