The Rituals - Alabazam Cocktail

What’s In a Name?

What’s in a name? Mr. Bill Shakespeare aptly used this question in Romeo and Juliet to show that names are but labels and that the worth of the person is all that truly matters. Today we measure the worth of a few cocktails with the names ALABAMA FIZZ (not too intriguing), ALABAZAM (piques interest), and ALASKA (it’s a state?).

Jerry Thomas, the most famous celebrity bartender, first wrote about the Fizz cocktail in 1876. Fizzes became so popular that bars would have teams of bartenders just to make them. There would be bartenders to shake the drinks and bartenders who would add the soda water and finish it with superfine sugar to make the drink fizz up. This brings us to our first cocktail, the ALABAMA FIZZ, which, like all fizzes, is meant to be drunk quickly!

ALABAMA FIZZ
2 oz. gin (Beefeater)
2 tbs. lemon juice
.5 tsp. sugar
Club soda (Q)

Strain into glass over ice cubes, add club soda, garnish with 2 mint sprigs.

Just looking at this recipe I have a few questions. Is this a slightly tweaked Tom Collins? If it’s a fizz why strain over ice? What’s with the two sprigs of mint? I like a nice garnish but that seems like a lot of mint.

TOM COLLINS
2 oz. gin
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. simple syrup
Seltzer or soda water
Garnish: lemon slice and cherry

Combine the gin, lemon juice and syrup in an ice-filled glass and stir. Top off with seltzer water and garnish. Source: Imbibe.com

There are a handful of essential cocktails out there that all other cocktails are born from. For example, a Japanese Cocktail is an Old Fashioned with cognac and orgeat instead of bourbon and sugar. Even though the ALABAMA FIZZ is basically a Tom Collins both Eric and I find fault with it. We previously reviewed the AFFINITY and had the same issues we are having now. The AFFINITY was basically a Rob Roy but the ratios were off. We thought that it would be better with a little more scotch—closer to a Rob Roy—but then it wouldn’t be an AFFINITY. While the ALABAMA FIZZ is a decent cocktail it is not as good as a TOM COLLINS. However, the one thing that is correct about this particular recipe is the use of sugar as opposed to simple syrup.

SCORES: Brian mediocre 5, Eric 5 [revised to 4.5]

ALABAZAM! No it’s not a sequel to Shaquille O’Neal’s groundbreaking genie film Kazaam—it’s our next cocktail. After doing a little research on this drink I am quite intrigued—and not just by the name. Every recipe that I find has the use of a teaspoon of Angostura bitters. That’s a lot of bitters! The last drink I had with a lot of bitters in it was a Pink Gin. Here is the recipe for the original ALABAZAM, which appeared in the cocktail book American and Other Drinks by Leo Engel in 1878.

ALABAZAM (1878)
Use a tumbler.

One teaspoon of Angostura bitters; two tea-spoonfuls orange Curaçao; 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.

My excitement for a bitters heavy drink wanes quickly when I realize that the ALABAZAM recipe from the Complete World Bartender Guide only asks for one to two dashes—of orange bitters no less!

ALABAZAM (Complete World Bartender Guide version)
2 oz. Cognac (Hennessy)
2 tsp. sugar syrup
1 tbs. curacao (Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao)
1 tsp. lemon juice
1-2 dashes orange bitters (Regans’)

Combine with ice; shake well. Strain and add ice.

Once again we think this drink is like something we’ve had before—this time the Sidecar. The first reported mention of the Sidecar was in 1916, while two books published in 1922 credit a bartender named MacGarry who worked at Buck’s Club in London. The ALABAZAM is from 1878 so I guess that settles which came first.

We both like this drink better than the Fizz but it still isn’t what we hoped for. This drink brings out the Debbie Downer in Eric, who likes to criticize things for what they are not—rather than analyzing what they are. “It’s not citrusy enough,” he says. “I would not drink this on purpose.” He feels like the curaçao and Cognac are fighting and the curaçao wins.

If time travel were a thing, I’m pretty sure I’d find this drink at a cocktail party my grandparents hosted. I didn’t like the way the Cognac melded with the rest of the drink. I initially rate this drink a 6 but Eric talks me down saying, “A 7 is an endorsement of something you’d drink again. Therefore a 6 is right on the edge. Is this cocktail right on the edge?” It’s wisdom like this that I yearn for and with that I change my initial rating.

SCORES: Brian 6 [revised to a 5.5]. Eric 5 [revised to a 5.5 {revised again to 6, adding back +.5 for the colorful name}]

The last cocktail of the day has us venturing to America’s last frontier, ALASKA. No one knows how this cocktail got its name, but The Savoy Cocktail Book speculates it came from South Carolina. I’m unsure if that’s 1930s humor or not. The ALASKA piques our interest with its recipe of liquor, liquor, and bitters, but once again we have something to take issue with—when making cocktails there is a time to shake and a time to stir. The rule is: If your cocktail contains fruit juice, dairy, or eggs you shake. If your cocktail contains only spirits or wine and sweetener, then you stir. Every recipe we find online directs the bartender, correctly, to stir the ALASKA, but our road map, The Complete Bartenders Guide, has us shaking this cocktail instead. We are in good hands, obviously.

ALASKA
1.5 oz. gin (Fords)
.75 oz. Yellow Chartreuse
1-2 dashes orange bitters (Regans’)

Combine with ice; shake very well. Strain over ice.

We reluctantly shake the drink but we damn well don’t strain it over ice—another faux pas for a drink like this. The ALASKA is to be served in a coupe or martini glass and generally ice doesn’t go in a coupe or martini glass. Those glasses should be chilled for a drink like the ALASKA. Even with the unorthodox shaking of this cocktail and ignoring the directive to pour over ice, it is amazing. This is a cocktail! The sweetness of the Chartreuse mixes well with the gin and the orange bitters round everything out.

Just know that this is a boozy drink. Many people assume they can make it in the last frontier of Alaska (the state) only to find its harsh side. Don’t make the same mistake with the ALASKA. I think you know what I’m saying here.

As with Shakespeare, we learn that a name is really nothing and the worth of the person, or in our case the cocktail, is all that matters. Today only one of these is really worth anything—the ALASKA, today’s winner and one of our highest rated drinks so far.

SCORES: Brian 9 Eric 9


SESSION STATS

Location: Eric’s place

Session Winner: ALASKA

Session Loser: ALABAMA FIZZ (you’re better off with a Tom Collins)

Session Alternate of Actual Quality: We didn’t need one because the ALASKA was that good. We did however have one last cocktail for the day. Eric stirred up an Oaxacan Old Fashioned.

Oaxacan Old Fashioned
1 oz. mezcal
1 oz. reposado tequila
.25 oz. agave
2 dashes mole bitters

Combine ingredients; stir with ice. Strain over large cube ice.

Tasted:
-Greenbar Ginger Liqueur vs. Kings Ginger (Greenbar wins hands down)

Discussed:
-Spirit swapping (trading liquor)
-Greenbar
-Pickles in a quesadilla
-Brandy is the last frontier
-How to cook corn on the cob
-Spain really loves Gin & Tonics
-Death & Co. book
-K&L Wines’ great bitters and shrub selection

On the next Rituals: An Ablemarle Fizz, an Albertine, and the Cthulhu of Cocktails!

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Brian Christie

About

Brian Christie envisions a future where all cocktails are made with natural ingredients and love, where hangovers don’t exist, and where everyone wants to experiment, explore, and enjoy life. As a grip/dolly grip, he’s worked on such shows as The O.C., Heroes, Iron Man 2, Gangster Squad, Horrible Bosses 2, Agents of Shield, and most recently Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. When not on set, he can be found traveling the world in search of new experiences and cocktails. His exploits include drinks in Los Angeles, Tokyo, Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, Muskegon, Munich, Boise, Prague, Phoenix, Dublin, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Sydney, and most recently Edinburgh.


Always drink responsibly!