FOOD & DRINK
10/10/2014 08:54 am ET Updated Oct 10, 2014

So What Exactly Is In Southern Comfort, Anyway?

Southern Comfort

Southern Comfort, SoCo, Cuffs & Button -- whatever you want to call it -- is a drink with more mystery than you know. You've probably encountered this spirit at some point in your life -- or at the very least have seen photos of Janis Joplin clutching a bottle in her hand -- but, have you ever stopped to think about what it is, exactly?

Most people think of Southern Comfort as a whiskey. A look at Google's search trends shows "Southern Comfort Whiskey" as one of the more popular search terms. And the bottle of brown liquid often sits next to the whiskey at your local liquor store, but it is not in fact a whiskey. Or a bourbon. Or a Scotch. Don't let its golden color make a fool of you.

Southern Comfort, which was first named Cuffs & Buttons, is in fact a liqueur -- a whiskey-flavored one. The original recipe was created by Martin Wilkes Heron in New Orleans. Heron was a barkeep looking for a solution to make unrefined whiskey more palatable. He came up with a recipe that added fruits and spices to the harsh liquor, and his customers loved it. With their thirst as his inspiration, he began marketing his recipe, which he later renamed Southern Comfort.

While the actual recipe is kept under lock and key, our deepest digging has brought us to this conclusion: Southern Comfort is made from 100-percent grain-neutral spirit base (basically vodka), fruit, spices and at times the recipe has included a little bourbon. We spoke to Charles K. Cowdery, who worked at Southern Comfort back in the day, and he said that the recipe at least used to be "grain neutral spirit, sugar, and a fruit concentrate in which the dominant fruit is apricot."

It's sweet, fruity and strong. And that's why it makes for such a great cocktail -- and an easier to drink whiskey-type drink.

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