“Medicinal” bitters have been taken as a curative for centuries and they were an integral component of the first cocktails. As a matter of fact, a cocktail wasn’t a cocktail without bitters in it. Generally, bitters in cocktails are relegated to the the occasional dash or two. Not so with the Alabazam, you get a whole teaspoon of the stuff. Don’t let that put you off, however. The other ingredients will tone down the more bitter elements while allowing the spiciness to come forward. The drink can be found in the 1878 American & Other Drinks by Leo Engel, who was manager of the American Bar at the Criterion, London (open daily 12 to 12, Sunday 6 to 11).
One tea-spoonful of Angostura Bitters
Two tea-spoonfuls of orange curacao
One tea-spoonful of white sugar (or simple syrup)
One tea-spoonful of lemon juice (fresh squeezed and strained)
Half a wine glass (1 1/2 oz) of brandy
Shake up well with fine ice and strain into a claret glass
This is as tidy a little drink as there ever was. Sweet, boozy, and spicy, it has it all. And as is inevitable, people started messing with it, increasing the curacao and/or the lemon juice and reducing the bitters to a more conventional couple of dashes. Kinda defeats the point, doesn’t it? Don’t be fooled by cheap imitations. This is the original Alabazam. Ask for it by name.
Never was taking one’s medicine so enjoyable!