The cocktail that became Southern Comfort was invented in 1874 by bartender Martin Wilkes Heron while working at McCauley’s Tavern, New Orleans. Heron would start with a good quality bourbon, then add vanilla bean, a quarter lemon, half a cinnamon stick, four cloves, a few cherries, and a bit of orange. He would let this soak for days, then when ready to finish, he would sweeten the mixture with honey. The tasty blend of fruits, spices and whiskey rapidly became a local favorite and was rapidly imitated by other bars.
Fifteen years later, Heron moved to Memphis, taking the recipe for what he called his “Cuffs and Buttons” cocktail with him. In Memphis, Heron patented the cocktail as “Southern Comfort” for bottling and package sales.
For the sake of brevity, we’ll skip past the next 127 years of the brand’s history of success, to arrive in 2016, with the purchase of Southern Comfort from Brown Forman by The Sazerac Company.
“When the brand came up for sale, we knew it would be a perfect addition to our portfolio,” said Kevin Richards, Sazerac senior marketing director, in a press release. “Not only does the brand tie perfectly with our heritage, but it’s also a wonderful complement to many of our other New Orleans rooted brands.”
While owned by Brown Forman, Southern Comfort had undergone a brand update to appeal to a younger target audience which in the opinion of the Sazerac marketing experts has strayed too far from its New Orleans roots. Sazerac asked CMA for a design study to combine elements of the tradition and heritage of the brand with improved shelf impact.
In the stage 1 creative exploration CMA presented a range of options influenced by New Orleans-related design references: wrought iron design, the Woodland Plantation (featured on the label since 1934), and Jackson Square in the French Quarter.Typographic treatments ranged from narrow serif based logotypes reminiscent of the original label, to chunky, wedge-serifed marks to dial up the on-shelf volume.
The selected design retains the traditional arched form of the Southern Comfort typography, in a bolder updated form. The label is topped by the tagline “The Spirit of New Orleans” in a deliberate return to the brand origins. M. W. Heron’s signature is embossed in the glass of the bottle above a separate lower label which carries a prominent fleur-de-lis centered between Heron’s name and that of New Orleans, the city that made both Southern Comfort and Sazerac famous.
The final design was extended to three varieties, Original (70 proof), 80 proof, and 100 proof, and offered in a wide range of bottle sizes.
Sazerac also produces two ready to drink canned beverages distributed in South Africa and Australia: Southern Comfort and Cola, and Southern Comfort Lemonade & Lime.