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January 16, 2014

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Our man on the barstool makes himself Southern Comfortable

WHEN I THINK OF NEW ORLEANS, THE first things that come to mind are its beautiful art museums, symphony and exquisite ballet company. The sights and sounds of the Crescent City are never more alive than a night spent with my colleagues in black tie and evening gowns, sampling haute culture associated with New York, Paris and Milan.

And if you believe that, pull my finger. It plays, “Jingle Bells”.

The Earth cooled and a couple of single cells bumped into each other in what is now New Orleans. They immediate ordered a round and the party hasn’t slowed down a bit since. From Pat O’Brien’s and Old Absinthe House to The Carousel Bar and Lounge (it spins…Wheee!), the Big Easy is the buckle in taking a belt. 

Back in 1874, a fella named Martin Wilkes Heron was working the bar at McCauley’s Saloon and experimented with spices and fruits to come up with a mixture he called, “Cuff and Buttons”. After about ten years of trying to explain why it was called something so silly, he changed the name to Southern Comfort. This required no special explanation on his part—and a legend was born.

In case you’re one of the few people on the planet that’s never sampled this tavern staple, here’s the run-down. The original labeled So-Co, as we called it in college, is a liqueur that’s whiskey-flavored. It comes in 70 proof for the white label and 100 proof for the black label. It’s a thicker–than-water, caramel–colored concoction with a sweet, spicy aroma reminiscent of vanilla and cinnamon. To taste it you will swear it’s a whiskey. But again, it’s not. Although nobody knows the original recipe, there’s an old, old rumor that it goes something like, “An inch of vanilla bean, about a quarter of a lemon, half of a cinnamon stick, four cloves, a few cherries and an orange bit or two. He would let this soak for days. And right when he was ready to finish, he would add his sweetener. He liked to use honey.”

Many a folk are apt to tip this one back all by its lonesome, which is perfectly acceptable and darn tasty. However in The City that Care Forgot, you’re more likely to see signature cocktails on the bar top. 

At Arnaud’s Richelieu Room on Rue Bienville, you’ll likely encounter Scarlett O’Hara. In this instance, she’s stepped out of the book and into a glass. She’s made with Southern Comfort, cranberry juice cocktail, club soda and lime. And naturally, there’s a Rhett Butler which is the same thing with orange liqueur instead of the cranberry. (I’ve yet to discover one named, “Prissy”.) 

And as Pat O’Brien has the famous Hurricane, you bet they’ve also got a Southern Comfort version which has sweet & sour, orange juice and pineapple. Add a splash of grenadine and a cherry on top, you’ve got a glass of Mardi Gras. All that’s missing are the beads, and how you obtain those is your own business.

Ya really can put this Southern classic with about anything reasonable and not go wrong. The mixtures are almost as limitless as your own imagination. And if that craps out on you, take into account that So-Co also comes in Black Cherry and Lime flavored varieties as well. So put that in your crawdad and smoke it!

Cheers!

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