Created over a century ago, the Alaska cocktail recipe can be considered a variation of the martini. Its ingredients – gin, yellow chartreuse and orange bitters – mirror those of a classic martini, with chartreuse replacing vermouth.
The Alaska cocktail was first printed in 1913, in the book by Jacques Straub Straub’s Handbook of Mixed Drinks (later reposted as Drinks), and rose to prominence with its inclusion in the 1930s The book of Savoyard cocktails, among others. The golden-hued drink is believed to have originated not in Alaska itself, but rather named after the territory that experienced a series of gold rushes around the turn of the 20th century.
The Alaska recipe is known to use Yellow chartreuse, the slightly sweeter and less resistant variant of the more popular green chartreuse. The characteristic herbal aromas of the liqueur, the liquorice and vanilla notes create several layers that blend with the gin base of the cocktail.
The original recipes called for Old Tom gin, a slightly sweeter style with a rounder herbal bouquet that bridges the gap between the dry London and Dutch juniper options. More modern iterations, however, simply go for London Dry Gin. This is probably the version you will find in bars today.
Arguments can be made for both. Since Chartreuse Jaune is quite sweet, a dry London-style gin can help add oomph and balance out the sweetness. Conversely, a rounder Old Tom gin can create a smoother drink, with an emphasis on the herbs rather than heavier alcohol notes. It’s really a matter of personal preference, and it’s worth trying the cocktail both ways to see which one you prefer.
For dry style gins, Hawthorn is a simple wheat-based gin with a simple taste that won’t overpower other Alaskan ingredients, and can usually be found for $ 20-30. If you are looking for something with a bigger bouquet, The botanist is an Islay dry gin containing enough plants to open up new dimensions. When it comes to dry London gins, however, any of your favorites should work well, as long as they’re not too potent.
If you go for Old Tom, Hayman’s is a classic choice that works well with most cocktails. For a New World option, Spring 44 Old Tom Gin, produced in Loveland, Colorado, is aged in Chardonnay barrels and offers a nice citrus complement to orange bitters, as well as a toasty depth. Old Tom Gin Ransom is another still-distilled and barrel-aged option made from corn and barley that offers malty depth with compatible citrus accents.
While bitters are often interchangeable in drinks based on personal taste, we recommend sticking to Alaska’s original choice of orange bitters (by Régan is a solid option), as the uplifting citrus notes help create a more vibrant drink than you’d get with something heavier, like Angostura.
Time / Portions
2 ounces of gin (London dry or Old Tom)
¾ ounce of yellow chartreuse
2 dahs of bitter orange
Orange twist, for garnish
In a mixing glass filled with ice cubes, add all the ingredients except the garnish. Stir for 30 to 45 seconds, until cool. Filter into a chilled cup or Nick & Nora glass. Twist the orange zest over the drink to express the oils and garnish.
Posted on January 8, 2022