First off, let me apologize for not writing in a while, but I’ve been busy doing things like re-working a bar program, writing a chapter of the next Food & Wine Cocktails book, helping found a bartender’s guild, planning seminars for the upcoming Czech Bar Awards, and coming up with recipes for the next Hendrick’s gin book, all the while dealing with work, travel, family and the recent influx of visitors to Seattle.

Mixology Monday, hosted by Joe and Dinah over at, has finally dragged me to the keyboard with an interesting theme this time: Nineteenth Century Cocktails. Combing through my sources and finding a lot of plagiarism between authors as well as an awful lot of bizarre (and not in the good way) concoctions, sometimes with ingredients that are now defunct, I began to worry that it would be next to impossible to find a unique entry that would also be palatable. Then I came across Leo Engel’s 1878 opus, American and Other Drinks.

While my eyes flitted over such concoctions as the Flip Flap, Heap of Comfort, the Magnolia (a la Simons) and the Square Meal (which could’ve been substituted for one, what with the two egg yolks and salt and pepper before we even get to the boozy ingredients), it was the Alabazam (it should really have an exclamation point after the name, shouldn’t it?) that intrigued me enough to actually waste good booze on a trial run.

Leo Engel, an expat by way of New York, came up with the following libation while tending bar at the Criterion’s American Bar:


Use tumbler.
One tea-spoonful of Angostura bitters; two tea-spoonfuls of orange Curaçoa; one tea-spoonful of white sugar; one tea-spoonful of lemon juice; half a wine glass of brandy. Shake up well with fine ice and strain in a claret glass.

This was converted (by me) to:


1 ½ oz Cognac
2 tea-spoons Cointreau
1 tea-spoon Angostura
1 tea-spoon sugar
1 tea-spoon lemon juice
stir all until sugar has dissolved
add ice, stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass
marvel at the spiciness!

The Criterion is a restaurant which still exists in London’s Piccadilly Circus to this day, although I suspect in a much smaller format as this celebrated bon-vivant’s tome makes mention of a smoking room, a grill room, a cigar shop, the buffet lounge, the west, east and south rooms as well as private dining rooms and the grand hall, not to mention the Theatre.

What intrigued me about the Alabazam, besides the name, was the use of a whole teaspoon of Angostura. As anyone who regularly uses bitters knows, this is an enormous amount of product for something that is usually measured in drops and dashes, but, tempered with the sugar and Cointreau, it really works in this drink.

Deep red rust in tone and with tons of spice from the Angostura, this cocktail will cure what ails you as you step back in time to an era where drinking was about more than getting blotto’d, it was about following doctor’s orders.


Picture by:
Jamie Boudreau
Cocktail Whisperer


~ by Jamie Boudreau on September 16, 2008.

15 Responses to “Alabazam”

  1. glad you are back

  2. Wow, brilliant! Any thoughts on using other bitters for a variation?

  3. Tried it, really liked it. Definitely an after dinner drink though, I sent one over to one of my regulars not realizing she still had some wine in her glass, she liked the drink but needless to say her palate was pretty much toast.
    I suppose the recipe would work for booze besides the cognac too, perhaps a whiskey, or a rum version?

  4. AMEN!

  5. Eugenia, Ryan:
    One can only try it to find out….

  6. Tried it with Gibson’s 12 year old Canadian whiskey. Not good, maybe a different bitters or something, perhaps Peychauds (imagine the colour). We’ll see. I must admit I’m intrigued by the idea of emphasizing the flavours in the bitters

  7. Beautiful with xo cognac and meyer lemon juice.

  8. […] recipe Niels provided weighed in at nearly 5oz so I instead went for Jamie’s smaller recipe which is fairly similar in proportion but a bit more appropriate for a Monday night. I’ve […]

  9. Wow, I love it. tried it with Chalfonte, and I’m hooked. The drink really evolves in your mouth, going through all the flavors. thanks!

  10. […] by a fruity cognac, and a multiple of the flavors can outcome in positively unusual Sidecars, Alabazams, and Japanese Cocktails. A perfumed rum or scotch might additionally be a great compare with quince […]

  11. […] relatively heavily bittered, requires 7 dashes each of Peychaud’s and Angostura. The Alabazam contains a whopping teaspoon (5mL) of bitters. I tried counting how many dashes it took to pour […]

  12. […] got this drink via Jay, who adapted it from Jamie, who got it from an 1878 tome called American and Other Drinks. Use whatever aromatic bitters you […]

  13. I ran out of cointreau so I substituted patron citronge, and rather than angostura, I used fee brothers whiskey barrel aged aromatic bitters.


  14. […] I always wanted to taste those bitter-heavy cocktails, so last night I tried the Alabazam. […]

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