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Hot Southern Comfort Cider

"(My people) were not a hugging people. In terms of emotional comfort, it was our belief that no amount of physical contact could match the healing powers of a well-made cocktail." David Sedaris

Southern Comfort was my drink of choice in college where I was introduced to it by watching Janis Joplin guzzle it straight from the bottle at a concert in West Palm Beach in 1969 a few weeks before her appearance at Woodstock. I have an indellible memory of my best friend Peter Potterfield and I sitting on two large flat rocks in the Mississippi River about 15 feet apart tossing a flask of Southern Comfort back in forth, allowing it to plunk into the water just in front of us, sink, and bob to the surface. It was a long two pint day, that day in 1971, but we got the job done, we solved the world's problems.

southern comfort lithograph

This recipe is the perfect cold weather drink, aprè?s ski if you will, or aprè?s snow blower. I've tried it with other liquors and liquers, but Southern Comfort is my fave. It is technically a liqueur, but not as sticky sweet as most, and at 70 proof it is mellower than the 100 proof stuff that Potterfield and I drank. It was created by Martin Wilkes Heron, a bartender, in 1874 at McCauley's Tavern in the French Quarter of New Orleans, LA, and he called it Cuffs & Buttons at first. Heron, it is said, was looking for a way to make raw unaged clear moonshine taste better by adding fruits and sugar. The current recipe is a secret, but my research and my palate tell me it is a blend of neutral spirits (vodka) with sugar, apricot and/or peach, with perhaps a whisp of citrus. Maybe there's even eye of newt, bats wings, and belly button lint. Whatever, it has the right balance for sipping with out making your lips stick together, and it works perfectly in this recipe.

It has a slight peach flavor to me. From 1934 to 2009 the label displayed a version of the 1871 lithograph by Alfred Waud and published by Currier & Ives called "A Home on the Mississippi" depicting Woodland Plantation, a mansion in West Pointe a la Hache, LA. The image first achieved notability when published as a chromolithograph by Currier and Ives. The plantation is now a bed and breakfast and has a place on the National Register of Historic Places. The genius who took it off the label should be tossed from rock to rock in the Mississippi.

And by the way, Potterfield has gone on to become a writer too, world famous as an outdoor adventure journalist and author of the book Classic Hikes of North America: 25 Breathtaking Treks in the United States and Canada.

Makes. 5 (8 ounce) mugs

Takes. 25 minutes

Serve with. Plain unglazed donuts

Ingredients

3 cups of apple cider

1 cup cranberry juice

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon butter

15" of cinnamon sticks

1 cup Southern Comfort

Optional. 1 teaspoon vanilla and a twist of orange skin

About cider. You can make this with filtered apple juice but it is much much better with cider, which is brown and cloudy with apple particles.

Method

1) Smoke the butter. Chill.

2) Add all the ingredients except the Southern Comfort to a non reactive pan and simmer for 15 minutes.

3) Add the southern comfort for about a minute, just enough to warm it but not boil off the alcohol.

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