When you're grabbing a drink at Disney's new bar, you half expect Christian Bale or Hugh Jackman, in full Prestige costume, to walk through the doors at any second. Or, at the very least, the ghost of Harry Houdini. It's called Abracadabar, and though it isn't inspired by the 2006 movie, it's hard not to think of it as you take in the rich velvet curtains, moody Damask wallpaper, and vintage-esque illusionist memorabilia surrounding you.
But, the real magic is its signature cocktail list: A roundup of 10 drinks that are 40 percent trick, 60 percent treat. There's the Conjurita, a marg that changes colors from inky indigo to poppy magenta as it's shaken; the Elixir 13, a combination of absinthe and water so potent there's a two-drink maximum per person; even a mocktail called the Seashore Sweet, a glass of ice topped with a carnival favorite - cotton candy - which vanishes as lemonade's poured over it. (Pro tip: Get it topped with orange-flavored vodka, for a 21-and-up concoction that tastes like liquid Skittles.)
The tricks and cutesy names may make you immediately dismiss the bar as another Orlando tourist trap - until you try a cocktail. They're made from scratch (no store-bought, just-add-booze mixes here), and they're not the saccharine-sweet drinks you'd expect from a vacation destination. Abracadabar focuses on whiskey-based cocktails, offering its own takes on classics, like Old Fashioneds, Negronis, and Manhattans.
"We come up with the drink, then we talk to WDI - Walt Disney Imagineering - and tell them what we want to get across, and they work with us to come up with the name," explained Brad Ward, beverage manager for Disney's Parks and Resorts. "As our cocktail sales have been growing, we've found people really enjoy highly themed bars."
For the Conjurita, for example, they told Imagineers they wanted people to immediately understand it was a margarita, but the name should convey the enchanted feeling of the bar itself.
"That's how they came up with the Conjurita - you're conjuring magic, the drink's changing colors, and it has the 'rita,' so you know it's a margarita," Ward said.
To come up with the recipes themselves, the team combines drink trends they've spotted while traveling - at conventions, when meeting with vendors, and visiting Mom and Pop bars worldwide - with visitor data, making sure to include things people have been loving lately, like drinks with a touch of heat. Disney tempered the kick of the black pepper and habanero-lime syrup it uses in Pepper's Ghost with a hearty pour of pineapple vodka. It's sweet, then it brings the heat.
They rounded out the menu with two mocktails (since Disney is often a family vacation, after all), but the Seashore Sweet - shown in the video above - has become a hit thanks to what Abracadabar bartender Gail Smith deemed the "fajita effect." The Seashore Sweet is such a vibrant blue that within seconds of one being delivered to a table, everyone's heads are swiveling to watch it go by, just like a sizzling platter of fajitas at Chili's or Applebee's. "Suddenly, everyone wants to know what it is and wants to order one too," she said.
That's the thing about Abracadabar - with every detail, the bar transports you. You're not five minutes away from a bustling highway in the heart of Orlando, FL, with a phone that won't stop buzzing with emails from your boss, even though you're on vacay, and a sunburn because you forgot to replace that SPF 30 TSA made you toss. You're spending the night at an old magicians' haunt that's, well, haunted - the bar's supposed to be a speakeasy illusionists frequented every night in 1940, until one evening, they all disappeared - and you're having one surprisingly strong drink while there.
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