Next to nothing is known of the origins of the Alaska Cocktail. I first discovered it in the famous Savoy Cocktail Book of 1930, in which the author jokingly writes that the Alaska name suggests the cocktail originated in South Carolina. While Alaska was not yet a U.S. state, it’s possible the territory was well-known enough to have a drink named for it. As this cocktail is best served as icily cold as possible, it does deserve the name of a frigid region, but we don’t know for sure.
My own opinion, based entirely on guesswork, is that it was the inevitable result of bartenders experimenting with the substitution of liqueurs for vermouth in a Martini. The recipe is identical to that of a Martini, save for Yellow Chartreuse replacing dry vermouth. As you delve into the more obscure cocktail recipes, you’ll find that there are a number of cocktails that fit this formula. The Emerald comes to mind– that’s the Alaska’s sister cocktail, which swaps higher-proof, and less sweet, Green Chartreuse for the Yellow.
Be forewarned: the Alaska can be something of an addicting cocktail. Upon my discovering it, it quickly became my go-to drink for the next few months. It offers all the gin-forward notes and flavors of your favorite gin, but with the appealing sweet herbal goodness of Chartreuse. Also note that this drink is more potent than a Martini. As strong as it is, a Martini is at least cut in strength by the presence of the lower-proof vermouth. Yellow Chartreuse is an 80-proof spirit, just like gin, so this is 3 ounces of high-proof booze. Imbibe with caution!
3 oz. London Dry Gin
1 oz. Yellow Chartreuse
3 dashes Fee Bros. Orange Bitters
Directions: Stir in an ice-filled mixing glass and strain
Glass: Cocktail Coupe
Garnish: Express a lemon peel over the drink, rub it around the rim of the glass, and drop it into the center of the drink.
Tasting Notes: All the crispness and juniper notes of a classic martini, with an added herbal sweetness around the edges, and a silkier mouthfeel.