Friday, April 25, 2014

The Spirit of Johnson City: Southern Railway

For our third post on The Spirit of Johnson City cocktails I created for The Main Street Pizza Company in the Spring of 2012, we are looking at the "Southern Railway." These drinks were created to celebrate the legacy of our small Southern town. (For the others we've covered so far, please see the links below.)

The Southern Depot, 1912-1973
Johnson City, Tennessee was originally founded as Johnson's Depot by Henry Johnson in the 1850's, at the intersection of the stagecoach road and the new railway that was being built between Bristol and Knoxville. By the turn of the century, Johnson's Depot had become "Johnson's City" and the small town was booming as a major junction of travel, trade and commerce between the North and South. The three rail lines that passed through town, the Southern, Clinchfield, and ET&WNC, brought great prosperity to the area. The Southern, the largest of the three rail companies, operated a passenger line through Johnson City from 1912-1973. The Norfolk-Southern Railway still operates cargo trains though town to this day.

When I was researching the history of the hospitality available through the rail lines that passed through town, I came across a picture of what appears to be a brandy bottle with the Southern Railway "The Southern Serves the South" logo. I started dreaming of what it must have been like to sit in the bar car and sip on this spirit as the sun went down across the horizon. Then I started to imagine how much fun it would have been to tend bar on a train, and what I might have made from the "house brandy" provided by my employer.

I'd really like one of these bottles.
If anyone local knows where to find one,
please let me know.

Southern Railway

1.5 oz brandy or cognac (Courvoisier VSOP or similar)
.5 oz sweet vermouth (Cinzano or Vya)
.5 oz dry red wine
.5 oz lemon juice
.5 oz pomegranate grenadine (recipe)

(Please make sure the wine and vermouth you are using are fresh!)

Combine ingredients in mixing tin.
Shake briefly to chill.
Strain into chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with maraschino cherry.

Southern Railway, 2014, Laura Cloer, TMSPC

I've been a bit absent this Spring from the Blogosphere. I've been distracted while working on our new TMSPC Summer menu update (out now) and getting my garden ready to plant. I'll be finishing up our Spirit of Johnson City drinks posts, participating in Mixology Monday again, and posting new creations soon! Until then, glasses raised for happy drinking...




  1. Thanks for an enjoyable post.

    RE: the little brown liquor bottle - It's Old Forester Bourbon. Back in the 1950s (maybe before that, as well), several railroads served that brand of Bourbon in bottles with an OF label on one side, and a label for the RR on the other. The bottles held 1/10 of a pint of 100-proof whiskey - about the same as today's 50 mL "shooter" bottles.

    I have one of those bottles labeled for Pullman Sleeper Service. See my blog at to read more. Cheers, and All Aboard!

    1. I'd sent this picture to several friends who collect vintage spirits and still hadn't figured it out. I really appreciate knowing the history behind it. I enjoyed your post about train memorabilia too! Thank you so much!