The Alaska Cocktail is a sure-fire winner

Between gin or vodka, olive or lemon twist, brine or stark, dry or wet, MSG-tinged or saline-tinctured, there is no shortage of paths in the choose-your-own-adventure of martinis. If you’re a complete martini fan, let me point you to the herbal martini. The Alaska cocktail is my favorite introduction.

The Savoy cocktail book immortalizes Alaska, a pre-prohibition era beverage. It contains gin, Yellow Chartreuse, and, more often than you might think, orange bitters. It has survived more recessions and wars than any of us, but its clever refinement makes me wonder about the circumstances that led to its creation.

I can tell that Alaska was created in 1910. Before that, the “Alaska cocktail” in the United States was a jug filled with cold water and ice. The Alaska we are making today is ice-cold but thirst-quenching in an entirely different way. It is not clear if the two were related. While Alaskan ice was cherished by barkeeps (which is no doubt why the craft-cocktail obsession with clear ice has exploded), it’s not known if that was considered in the naming of the drink. The consensus is that Alaska was named after the territory with the same name.

Additionally, the drink’s golden color symbolized the precious metal promised to pioneers who settled there in large numbers. Wild, isn’t it? All that history, so I can now add this herbaceous player to my martini arsenal.

This number is a real highlight for Yellow Chartreuse, the herbal driving force. It is milder and sweeter than its older green sibling, which has more spice and bites. This blends well with the orange bitters and gin to make a refreshing and smooth drink. It’s perfect for this season because of its medicinal tones and high proof. It may not be a pitcher filled with mountain water, but it is refreshing to remind you of taking a deep, crisp mountain breath.

This is the most common and modern version of the cocktail. However, for those who are serious about cocktails, you can swap regular gin with the more exotic Old Tom gin. It’s a sweeter gin that sits halfway between London dry gin and Dutch jenever. You’ll get a close approximation to the OG. Enjoy!

The Alaska Cocktail

Mix ingredients in a chilled glass. Add cracked ice to the glass and stir until chilled but not too cold. Strain into a chilled coupe and add a lemon twist to the cocktail. Garnish with garnish.


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