The Alabazam is an old cocktail recipe usually credited to Leo Engels, an American bartender (working in London) who published the recipe in 1878 (recipe number 192 by the way) in his cocktail book, American and Other Drinks (grab yourself a copy because this is not the only gem in the book). His recipe bears a resemblance to the modern Sidecar, but with one significant difference, Mr. Engels used Angostura Bitters in the recipe (with the lemon juice and orange Curacao), lots of Angostura Bitters!
I have seen a few modern versions of the recipe, usually with the bitters toned down, and the teaspoon of sugar replaced with a teaspoon of simple syrup. However, I recommend the original construction, as well as the use of a robust brandy which will stand up to the bitters. After a bit of experimentation I found Miguel Torres 20 Hors d’âge works extremely well. (see review for Miguel Torres 20 Hors d’âge here)
Leo Engels recipe can be summarized as follows:
Half a wine glass of brandy (about 1 3/4 oz)
2 teaspoons Orange Curacao
1 teaspoon Angostura bitters
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Shake well over fine (crushed ) ice
Strain into a wine glass
The Miguel Torres 20 Hors d’âge Brandy, with its strong oak flavour running throughout, works very well with the heavy dose of bitters in the Alabazam. I also used Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao (see review here) to obtain as close to an original 1878 Curacao flavour as possible. When you try to duplicate the recipe please, do not skimp on the sugar, as the lemon juice and bitters are unforgiving if not balanced by the appropriate amount of sweetness.
Miguel Torres 20 Hors d’âge, is a double distilled brandy made by the Torres family (or bodega) who have been intrinsically linked to the wine making region of Spain known as the Penedès for over three centuries. Their brandy is produced from selected wines of the Parellada (a traditional Catalan white varietal) and Ugni Blanc (also known as Trebbiano in Italy) grape varieties. After distillation of the wine in copper pot stills, a careful selection process is undertaken to choose the most positive aromatic fractions, and these are aged in french Limousin oak barrels.