The first—and last—time I had Southern Comfort was right after college. I was living in Dallas, and helping a friend celebrate her birthday. We were at some questionable bar on the outskirts of downtown with sawdust for flooring and picnic tables for seating (this was Texas after all) and wound up talking to a group of guys doing round after round of SoCo and lime shots. Maybe it was because I was already drunk, but all I remember is that the mixture brought to mind Pine Sol and I swore I’d never try it again.
Fast forward five years and I had my second brush with Southern Comfort last month, but this time with its new flavor: Caramel Comfort. The distillery invited me to preview a bottle before its national release. As I twisted open the bottle’s screw cap, fuzzy memories began to grow vivid. I wasn’t sure what to expect. The first whiff: pure, creamy caramel. I poured an ounce into a glass and gave the amber liquid a swirl, releasing notes of spices and a hint of whiskey. I took a sip and was greeted by caramel, vanilla, and a bit of whiskey. Although it’s a bit too sweet for my palate to drink on its own, I can envision pouring a glug onto a scoop of ice cream or mixing it into a deliciously boozy milkshake. A splash of it would also be good in a mug of hot chocolate. The distillery recommends mixing it with Sprite. I gave it a try and was pleasantly surprised to find that the sweetness had subsided and the soda’s citrus flavors had melded perfectly with the caramel. A vast improvement from the shot I had five years ago.
I’m happy to say that Southern Comfort has certainly evolved over the years and is finding its place in an industry where flavored liquors are proving to be big money makers. What was once a liqueur invented by bartender M. W. Heron in New Orleans as a whiskey-flavored drink called “Cuffs & Buttons,” and later used in cocktails like the Scarlett O’Hara and Alabama Slammer, Southern Comfort has evolved into a family of liqueurs that contains a number of flavors, including gingerbread spice, lime, and cherry. And the creators, I soon discovered, have a wicked sense of humor too. For April Fools Day this year they created a website and video claiming that Caramel Comfort would soon be delivered by drone. Boy was I bummed to discover it was all a big joke.
Overall, I think it’s the ideal tipple for the final chilly days of April, and Caramel Comfort will segue perfectly into the warmer months thanks to its proven ability to be a cocktail chameleon. Here’s one cocktail that the folks from Southern Comfort shared with us that’s worth a try:
1 ½ oz. Caramel Comfort
2 oz. apple juice
2 oz. Sprite
Directions: Mix all ingredients in a tall glass, stir and add ice.
Distillery: Southern Comfort Company (Brown-Forman Corporation)
City: Louisville, Ky.
Style: Flavored liqueur