Words by: Simon Difford
Possibly from Alabama and usually served too long to slam but with a good, rhythmic, rhyming name. The Alabama Slammer has numerous recipes but all contain Southern Comfort and orange juice with either grenadine or sloe gin – essential to achieve the desired sunset colour.
Some Alabama Slammer recipes also have vodka and/or amaretto, and Alabama being a southern State, many Alabama Slammer recipes are Southern Comfort based with the sweet peachy liqueur providing the predominant flavour, rather than just being a flavour enhancer.
Mark Torre's 1987 The Bartender's Cherry (Second Edition)
Gary "gaz" Regan included one of the most popular recipes in his 2003 Joy of Mixology, and as he states, this "makes five shooters or one highball."
1oz / 30ml Sloe gin
1oz / 30ml Amaretto
1oz / 30ml Southern Comfort
2oz / 60ml Freshly squeezed orange juice
As Gary suggests, with its "Slammer" name, this drink was often served as a shot [Alabama Slammer shot recipe], indeed this cocktail is thought to have originated in the late 1960s-early 70s as a shot at the University of Alabama, hence "Alabama Slammer". The recipe then morphed into a long drink.
The Alabama Slammer said to have first appeared in print in the 1971 edition of the Playboy Bartender's Guide by Thomas Mario with the recipe: 1 oz Southern Comfort, ½ oz sloe gin, 1 oz amaretto and ½ oz lemon juice served in a highball glass over ice. However, the 1971 and 1972 copies we have both include only a "Alabama" (minus the Slammer) with a quite different recipe (below).
Playboy Bartender's Guide by Thomas Mario 1971
Its next written appearance, the 1984 Mr. Boston 50th Anniversary Bartender's Guide, also crucially calls for lemon juice rather than orange juice: "1oz Amaretto di Saronno, 1oz Southern Comfort, ½oz Mr Boston Sloe Gin. Stir in a highball glass over ice and a splash of lemon juice."
The balancing tart lemon juice was perhaps swapped for orange juice during the 1970s, a time when long drinks with orange juice were very fashionable, particularly the Harvey Wallbanger and Slow Comfortable Screw. Orange juice also had the advantage of being easily available as a packaged juice and better suited to batching and pitcher serves.
Sadly, it's the Alabama Slammer recipes that are heavy on sweet liqueurs and light on oomph, without the balancing lemon juice, that have endured. Tone down the liqueurs, add vodka and a splash of lemon, as per our Alabama Slammer recipe, and this is not a bad drink.
The Alabama Slammer remained popular with college goers, particularly at the University of Alabama, throughout the 1980s and such was the notoriety that it featured in Tom Cruise's jubilant "world's last barman poet" speech, delivered whist stood on his bar in the 1988 film Cocktail. Then, with the 1990s obsession for 'V'-shaped Martini glasses, inevitably Alabama Slammer straight-up recipes started to emerge before the drink became naff and unfashionable, surviving as a pitcher in the TGI Fridays chain.
Perhaps it's time you gave this vintage drink another chance, or even try your first. After all, not everything to emerge from the 1970s and 80s was in poor taste.