The Alaska is an old cocktail which features the use of gin mixed with Chartreuse. Sources vary of which color of Chartreuse to use, but generally the drink is made with yellow Chartreuse.
Alaska, a portion of the United States that is separated from the contiguous states by the country of Canada, is a cold and frigid place many months out of the year. But occasionally, the land blooms and becomes filled with greenery, and teems with life; this is the few short months of spring and summer. To me this cocktail is a combination of those two seasons, brought together between temperature and flavor: the Chartreuse lends nice herbaceous notes, and gives it a sense of depth, while the temperature from the mixing of the drink lends this short cocktail a true refreshing quality.
To be honest, I can find very little on this cocktail. Not originating from the region, Craddock states that the drink most probably originates from South Carolina (Craddock 18). However, the drink is rather similar to the Martini; a good question is whether or not the drink would work well with a Genevieve style gin; personally, as most modern sources point out, I think that a London gin works the best. Going by a few other names, it is sometimes known as the Oriental cocktail; when using dry sherry in the drink in addition to the Chartreuse and gin, the drink is known as a Nome (Embury 233). If you were to use green Chartreuse, this cocktail is apparently known as a Green Alaska (Uyeda 80-81). An after dinner drink, this cocktail has a light sense of sweetness that originates from the Chartreuse, which balances out dry gin especially well. Furthermore, both sets of flavor work well together, emphasizing various botanical notes and spice flavors.
For this drink, you want to be careful over the quantities of Chartreuse and gin; while some sources like Craddock state it should be made in a three to one ratio, many times others will claim it ought to be made even drier (Craddock 18). For instance, Jackson claims that it should be made at a four to one ratio; however, note that Jackson also uses green Chartreuse (which would make this cocktail even more alcoholic and dry) (Jackson 134). In one case, someone makes this drink at a six to one ratio, which would make this even exceedingly dry; they add a dash of orange bitters though, which works wonderfully in this cocktail, and does make sense, considering its’ background and relationship to the Martini (Schumann 30). Embury will even go as far as saying that the gin should be seven parts to the Chartreuse (Embury 233).
Since this drink only features liquor, it truly needs to be stirred; Kazuo Uyeda and others point out the necessity to stir the drink (Uyeda 81; Embury 233). However, if you try it shaken, as is the case with Craddock’s recommendation, you do achieve a nice chill to the drink reminiscent of the Alaskan temperature (Craddock 18). Though, the problem with shaking it is that the flavor of the Chartreuse is a little lost, so shaking the drink is only useful when the amount of Chartreuse is increased to levels more similar to those listed by Craddock. However, the drink is fine on its own, stirred, and captures a sort of sophistication from the flavor of the gin and the Chartreuse.
Try the cocktail with the addition of orange bitters, since it adds a nice depth of complexity to the drink and makes it a true “cocktail.” Personally, I prefer Angostura Orange, and only in small quantities, that being in a few drops, not even an entire dash. Bitters are extremely potent in things such as the Martini, and so a few drops serve their purpose well.
As I’ve mentioned before, cocktail glasses should be chilled; on account of the name of this drink, the imbiber expects something which is quite chilled. As such, a chilled cocktail glass is a necessity for this potion. If you are able, place the glassware in the freezer prior to using it; if unable, place some ice in the glass, some soda water or just plain water, and let it sit while you are making the cocktail, straining out the chilling mixture prior to servicing the cocktail.
2 ounces dry gin
1/2 ounce yellow Chartreuse
2 to 3 drops orange bitters (optional)
Stir the ingredients, straining into a chilled cocktail glass.
Embury, David A. 2009. The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. Originally published 1948. New York: Mud Puddle Books, Inc.
Schumann, Charles. 1991. American Bar. New York: Abbeville Press Publishers.
Uyeda, Kazuo. 2010. Cocktail Techniques. Originally published in 2000. New York: Mud Puddle Books, Inc.