Of Whiskey and Rum
Booze was in the news this past month. There was the announcement that the Sazerac Company had acquired Southern Comfort. There is something right with a world in which the same people that warehouse Southern Comfort also stack Sazerac, for both brands were created here.
Southern Comfort was invented by New Orleans bartender Martin Wilkes Heron back in 1874. The liqueur has always had a unique fruit taste because of its recipe, which combines spice and whisky flavorings, plus fruit, to a neutral spirit.
Sazerac is a brand of rye whiskey with many uses, but most especially in making the cocktail with that name – another New Orleans invention. Originally the drink was made with cognac, but as New Orleans became more of an American-style whiskey-drinking town and less inclined for the French stuff, the rye hooch was substituted. The exact big bang moment of the Sazerac cocktail’s creation is unknown, and there were no doubt many variations of it, but the first printed version of the recipe appeared in 1908. That recipe called for absinthe, which was banned, for fear of being lethal, in ’12.
Various anise-flavored liqueurs were substituted, with the most poplar eventually being another New Orleans product, Hebrsaint, which was invented in 1934.
Sazerac, the company, own many brands as well as the Kentucky-based Buffalo Trace distillery. Southern Comfort, the liqueur, now has a home where it belongs. May this be a happy beginning?
A word, however, about rum, which is the topic of our cover story: Sitting right here in the heart of sugar country and connected by ship routes – and the soul – to the Caribbean, one might think that this would be more of a rum town than one known for whiskey. Not the case. The whiskey purveyors apparently made more of a rush coming down from Kentucky and Tennessee in their flat boats. Rum travelled a longer route. It does, however, fit in nicely with our culture and does have, in addition to tropical cocktails, two really famous uses: one as the most important ingredient in the Hurricane (the drink) and the other adding taste and fueling the fire in a Bananas Foster. Now that there are fledgling local distilleries the demand will no doubt grow.
Just in the French Quarter alone there are many places to experience a satisfying rum drink, yet it’s significant that somewhere along the way the path will include a street named Bourbon.