History of the Alabama Slammer Cocktail

The Alabama Slammer is a '70s kind of tiki bar, umbrella-topped, sweet tasting cocktail immortalized by Brian (Tom Cruise), the Last Barman Poet in the movie "Cocktail":
"I see America drinking the fabulous cocktails I make / Americans getting stinky on something I stir or shake / the Sex on the Beach / the schnapps made from peach / the Velvet Hammer / the Alabama Slammer."

Legend has it that the Alabama Slammer was invented at the University of Alabama in 1975, although further details about the drink's origin are hazy. Speculation about its inventor abounds, but neither the bartender who first concocted it nor the bar that first served it are part of the lore. It is, however, said to be the signature drink of the Alabama Crimson Tide football team.

It's also the name of a tune by the Texas country group Casey Donahew Band: "Now it hits me like a hammer/Last night's Alabama Slammer."

The Slammer has become known a favorite of frat boys, spring breakers and nautical aficionados of "boat drinks," although "Boat Drinks" singer Jimmy Buffett, himself an Alabamian from Mobile, of course immortalized a different drink, the tequila-based Margarita.

The Alabama Slammer comes in two versions: the cocktail, which is made in a highball glass, and the shot.

The recipe is the same. The shots are just poured into more, smaller glasses - one glassful makes about four shots.

A classic Alabama Slammer is made in an ice-filled glass with 1/2 ounce sloe gin, 1/2 ounce Southern Comfort, and 1/2 ounce Amaretto, with enough fresh orange juice to top up and a cherry-and-orange-slice garnish.

Some recent versions call for grenadine instead of sloe gin, which was out of favour for a while, although the bittersweet liqueur is staging a comeback, according to The New York Times.

For a modern, upscale version of the Slammer, you could try the Frank Bama, named after a character in Buffett's novel "Where Is Joe Merchant?" The recipe ditches the Southern Comfort and uses bourbon, lemon and orange juice, sloe gin, Amaretto and peach bitters.

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Bartender's top tip

The key to a great cocktail is balance. Ensure that the sweetness, sourness, bitterness, and alcohol are in harmony. Use fresh ingredients whenever possible, and don't be shy about adjusting the proportions to suit your taste. For instance, if you find a drink too sour, add a bit more sweetener, or if it's too sweet, balance it with a bit of citrus or bitters.

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