Alaska Cocktail: An Unbreached Last Frontier

Alaska Cocktail: An Unbreached Last Frontier
The iconic Red Dog Saloon in Alaska's capital Juneau, from which comes another famous gin used in versions of the Alaska cocktail, Photo Credit: Ric Jacyno/Shutterstock.com

Here's a little primer on the tidy, martini-like concoction that remains unrivalled among its peers

Prannay Pathak
October 18 , 2020
08 Min Read

In the distance, the Denali mountain peak in Alaska; perhaps the pine notes in the Alaska Cocktail come from the evergreens swaddling the region

All these mountains with their thousand icy faces, the solemn spruces with their deep green leaves, the sublime water body shimmering with the unforgiving beauty of Alaska—isn’t it all just gorgeous? We’re sure whoever came up with the recipe for the matchless Alaska Cocktail, was inspired by a view like this. Or the countless others present in the Last Frontier.

For about a hundred years now, it has been claimed that contrary to what one might expect, this cold and classy cousin of the martini has nothing to do with Aleut or Eskimo gastronomy. The ingredients used don’t come from Alaska. It doesn’t even betray a speck of likeness with the other warming tipples served in bars here. But just ask a sommelier what’s unique about the recipe, and they’ll tell you it’s one of the mellowest and most elegant drinks they’ve ever had.

 
 
 
View this post on Instagram

Alaska. . . Provavelmente o coquetel mais elegante que vai aparecer na sua timeline hoje. . . O Alaska aparece pela primeira vez no Savoy Cocktail Book de 1930, onde o autor deixa claro que esse drink não fazia parte da dieta dos esquimós, provavelmente surgiu na Carolina do Sul. . . Pra mim é uma das melhores maneiras de usar o Chartreuse amarelo, e uma excelente variação do Dry Martini. . . 60ml de Old Tom Gin @haymansgin 20ml de Chartreuse amarelo 2 dashes de bitter de laranja . . @pilhoverman

A post shared by Rafael Nardi - Barman de Apto. (@barmandeapartamento) on Sep 1, 2019 at 5:28pm PDT

The Alaska Cocktail first finds mention in Straub’s Manual of Mixed Drinks, a 1913 compilation of alcohol recipes by a Swiss wine steward called Jacques Straub. Seventeen years on, another book called The Savoy Cocktail Book, listed the recipe in its cocktails section, solemnly swearing insofar as its author, the famous bartender Harry Craddock, was concerned, the following: “So far as can be ascertained this delectable potion is not the staple diet of the Esquimaux. It was probably first thought of in South Carolina—hence its name.”

The Alaska Cocktail was first mentioned in Jacques Straub's Manual of Mixed Drinks, and then in Harry Craddock's The Savoy Cocktail Book

The Alaska, as we earlier said, is a kind of martini where the usual dry vermouth makes way for the honeyed smoothness of the Chartreuse. It is believed that the drink’s first-ever mention in Straub’s book only a year after Alaska’s incorporation as part of US territory fuelled a mad fascination with the ice-cold wilderness. Prospectors had been flocking to the region in hopes of finding gold since the beginning of the century. Who knew what kind of gold was waiting to be discovered from this beguilement?

Read: USA: The Booze Trail

Many have been led to conclude that the selection of the juniper-forward gin was made keeping in mind the alpine vegetation swaddling almost half of the Alaskan landscape. That’s where the tantalizing but subtle hint of pine joins the fray. Variations and riffs have always been part of the cult, though, and variants such as pigskin and the terroir-driven Amalga from Juneau in Alaska, are often used in the preparation. Some even use thyme to elevate the juniper. The yellow Chartreuse brings its own herbaceous punch to the mix, not to mention the drink’s characteristic golden colour.

 
 
 
View this post on Instagram

THYME FOR SOMETHING NEW! . Today’s #fiveoclockgin is a twist on an Alaska made with the brilliant @olafssongin, hopefully coming to the UK soon - and hence a NEW addition to my collection for #ginadaymay. . . An Icelandic gin made with arctic thyme, birch and mountain moss alongside a classic juniper and citrus base, it’s a lovely gin inside and out with plenty of herbal notes to compliment the piney juniper. . THYME FOR SOMETHING NEW: - 60ml @olafssongin gin. - 15ml green @chartreuse_uk. - 5ml thyme liqueur from @distilleries_provence. . Stirred over ice until super chilled (the key to making a banging Alaska) and strained into a martini glass. Garnished with a lemon zest, and in my case, an entire thyme bush 😂. . #gifted. . #cocktails #icelandicgin #olafssongin #alaskacocktail #alittlethyme

A post shared by Emma Stokes - Gin Monkey (@ginmonkeyuk) on May 26, 2020 at 9:14am PDT

Read: Gin Recipes to Lift Your Spirits

Preparation
Apart from the common Old Tom version, the drink can be made with either London Dry gin. However, the latter remains the original, popular choice for the cocktail, recommended also in Straub’s manual.

Ingredients: Old Tom gin (65ml), yellow Chartreuse (20ml), lemon twist to garnish and a dash of orange bitters.

Method: Fill up a mixing glass with ice and go about stirring the gin, Chartreuse and bitters together. Strain into a glass, squeeze the lemon over the drink and drop it into the glass.

 
 
 
View this post on Instagram

Alaska. . . Provavelmente o coquetel mais elegante que vai aparecer na sua timeline hoje. . . O Alaska aparece pela primeira vez no Savoy Cocktail Book de 1930, onde o autor deixa claro que esse drink não fazia parte da dieta dos esquimós, provavelmente surgiu na Carolina do Sul. . . Pra mim é uma das melhores maneiras de usar o Chartreuse amarelo, e uma excelente variação do Dry Martini. . . 60ml de Old Tom Gin @haymansgin 20ml de Chartreuse amarelo 2 dashes de bitter de laranja . . @pilhoverman

A post shared by Rafael Nardi - Barman de Apto. (@barmandeapartamento) on Sep 1, 2019 at 5:28pm PDT


Related Articles

Here to there

Explore Directions(Routes) and more...
to Go

Our Other Editions

Outlook’ is India’s most vibrant weekly news magazine with critically and globally acclaimed print and digital editions. Now in its 23rd year...

Explore All
  • Check out our Magazine of the month
  • Offbeat destinations
  • In-depth storytelling
  • Stunning pictures
  • Subscribe