Southern Comfort wants to be taken seriously as a whiskey; adds whiskey.
Southern Comfort, beloved base of many a college punch and/or summer cocktail, is returning to its roots. Back in 1874, the alcohol known as SoCo was a whiskey, created when a bartender named M. W. Heron decided to mix spices and fruits into the existing harsh whiskeys to create a smoother variety. (It was also originally called Cuffs & Buttons, but that’s neither here nor there.)
Sometime between then and 1979, whiskey was removed from the recipe. It was replaced, instead, with a generic grain-neutral spirit base. Since then, no one has ever really correctly identified what Southern Comfort is. The only correct answer, really, is the “spirit of New Orleans.”
Now, the Sazerac Company, which owns SoCo, wants to put (undisclosed types of) whiskey back in the bottle in an effort to be taken seriously as a whiskey. Among their other good ideas for the brand: phasing out the Lime and Caramel versions and adding an 80-proof black label option to join their existing standard 70-proof and super-serious 100-proof varieties. They’ll also be redesigning the label and bottle.
As you may have gathered, the Grand Old Drink of the South has a bit of a branding problem. Southern Comfort is largely considered either a liqueur, on account of its sweet taste and lack of a specific liquor, or the drink of youths, on account of its popularity on college campuses. Popular cocktails made with the drink – Soco Amaretto Lime, Hurricanes, Alabama Slammers – may be tasty but they lack the class attributed to whiskey.
Sazerac hopes that the rebranding will help the drink establish itself as a whiskey – found on the shelf between Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam. Adding whiskey is certainly a start.