Cocktails in the 70s were bright, colorful, sweet, and fruity. And as a true drink from the 1970s, the Alabama Slammer ticks all those boxes.
However, looking at the list of ingredients, one might doubt that this combination could work: Southern Comfort, Sloe Gin, Amaretto, and orange juice. A list of ingredients that sounds neither like an old-fashioned nor a really refreshing cocktail.
But with a bit of tweaking, you can modernize this somewhat antiqued cocktail. Reduce the sweetness, increase the balance of flavors, and you got yourself a perfect cocktail for a chilled afternoon.
Ingredients for making an Alabama Slammer
The Alabama Slammer requires a total of six ingredients: Vodka, Southern Comfort, Sloe Gin, Amaretto, orange, and lemon juice.
With so many sweet elements, you have to get the balance right and measure your ingredients carefully. But when done right, this drink is a real winner.
Liqueurs in the Alabama Slammer
Like a typical 70s cocktail, the Alabama Slammer is full of sweet and fruity ingredients. Southern Comfort, Sloe Gin, Amaretto, and orange juice. And as you can see, the first three ingredients are all liqueurs.
Southern Comfort is Whiskey-based with fruity and spicy notes, Sloe Gin is a gin-based liqueur, and Amaretto is a distinctly almond-flavored liqueur from Italy.
Vodka and lemon
So much for the traditional recipe. But for a better balance, the cocktail needs some additional ingredients.
Using Vodka as the base spirit of the Alabama Slammer will increase strength and reduce the sweetness. And it won't alter the flavor combination but helps balance the drink.
Then, to improve the acid-sweetness ratio, add a bit of freshly squeezed lemon juice to the mix. But don't replace orange juice completely, as it still is a key ingredient of the drink.
What is Sloe Gin?
Sloe Gin is a rather unusual ingredient in cocktails. And despite its name, it's not a real Gin. Instead, it is a liqueur based on the juniper-flavored spirit.
Sloes are small red berries that give the liqueur its typical, deep red color. They're loosely related to plums, which is why some US distilleries use beach plums instead of Sloe berries to produce Sloe Gin.
Typically a Sloe Gin contains between 15% and 30% ABV. In Europe, the minimum amount of alcohol is 25% ABV for Sloe Gin. Therefore it's not unusual to find some higher ABV Sloe Gins there.
Elephant Gin offers a pretty good one bottled at 35% ABV. Other Sloe Gins are bottled at 40% and above like the one from reGINerate (43% ABV).
History of the Alabama Slammer
According to various online sources, the first written appearance of the Alabama Slammer supposedly was in the Playboy's Bartender Guide, published in 1971.
However, there's no documentation or proof to support those claims. Neither the edition from '71 nor the next print from 1972 contains an Alabama Slammer.
All you can find is an Alabama -and no Slammer- with a significantly different list of ingredients. I presume that, probably, there was a mix-up somewhere.
Instead, it is more likely that the Alabama Slammer was a shot first served in the late 1960s at the University of Alabama. That would also explain the name of the drink. And over time, the shooter evolved into a long drink.
In 1984 an Alabama Slammer recipe was published in Mr. Boston's 50th Anniversary Bartender's Guide. And the formula by Mr. Boston uses lemon juice instead of orange juice.
Orange juice was quite a popular cocktail ingredient in the 70s, not only in the Alabama Slammer but also in drinks like a Harvey Wallbanger.
Yet, the tartness of lemon juice does a way better job of balancing the sweet ingredients in this cocktail.
Taste of the Alabama Slammer cocktail
When done right, the Alabama Slammer is a sweet and fruity cocktail with just the right level of booziness. The combination of Amaretto and Sloe Gin dominates its taste.
The whiskey-based Southern Comfort, together with orange and lemon juice, adds balance, tartness, and complexity to the cocktail.
Also, the drink's color can vary from vibrant and bold orange to bright red, depending on the products and the individual recipe. Our favorite is this:
- 1 oz Vodka
- 0.75 oz Southern Comfort (70 to 80 proof, 35% to 40% ABV)
- 0.5 oz Amaretto
- 0.5 oz Sloe Gin
- 2.5 oz Fresh orange juice
- 0.5 oz Fresh lemon juice
- Add all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled.
- Strain into an ice-filled Collins glass.
- Garnish with a slice of orange and a Maraschino cherry.