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 indelible memory of sitting on a large flat rock in the Mississippi River about 15 feet apart my best friend, Peter Potterfield, and the two of us tossing a flask of Southern Comfort back and 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.
This warm cocktail recipe is the perfect cold weather drink, après ski if you will, or après snow blower. I’ve tried it with other liquors and liqueurs, 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. The drink 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 without making your lips stick together, and it works perfectly in this warm beverage.
For the record, nobody paid me to talk about Southern Comfort.
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.
Serve with: Your favorite holiday snacks.
- 3 cups apple cider
- 1 cup cranberry juice
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 15 cinnamon sticks
- 1 cup Southern Comfort
- Fire up. pre-heat a smoker to 225°. Alternatively, you can set up a charcoal grill for 2-zone cooking by placing a chimney full of pre-heated charcoal briquets on one side of the grill's charcoal grate in order to create direct and indirect cooking zones. Adjust the smoker or grill vents to bring the temperature to about 225°F and add 2 to 3 chunks of your favorite smoking wood to the charcoal for flavor. On a gas grill, adjust the temperature knobs so that one half of the grill is off and the other half is heated enough to maintain a temperature of approximately 225°F on the indirect side.
- Cook. Place the butter in a heat resistant bowl and place it on the smoker or on the cool side of the grill. Smoke the butter for about 20 minutes. It will melt but become infused with seductive smoke. Then chill. I usually smoke a whole stick or two when I am smoking something else, then freeze it for whenever I need smoked butter.
- Add all the ingredients except the Southern Comfort to a non reactive pan and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Add the southern comfort for about a minute, just enough to warm it but not boil off the alcohol.
- Serve. Pour into glasses, add a cinnamon stick, and serve immediately while it is still hot.