Created over a century ago, the Alaska cocktail recipe can be considered a variation on 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 Jacques Straub’s Straub’s Manual of Mixed Drinks (later republished as Drinks), and gained prominence through its inclusion in 1930’s The Savoy Cocktail Book, among others. The golden-hued drink is thought to not have been created in Alaska itself, but rather named for the for the territory which had experienced a series of gold rushes around the turn of the 20th century.
The Alaska recipe is known for using Yellow Chartreuse, the slightly sweeter, lower-proof variation of the more popular Green Chartreuse. The liqueur’s signature herbal aromas, licorice and vanilla notes create multiple layers that pair with the cocktail’s gin base.
Original recipes called for Old Tom gin, a slightly sweeter style with a rounder bouquet of botanicals than bridges the gap between London dry and Dutch genever options. More modern iterations, though, opt simply for London dry gin. That’s most likely the version you’ll find in bars today.
Arguments can be made for both. Since Yellow Chartreuse is fairly sweet, a dry London-style gin can help to add punch and balance out sugary aspects. Conversely, rounder Old Tom gin can create a smoother drink, with an emphasis on botanicals over heavier alcohol notes. It’s really a matter of personal preference, and worth trying the cocktail both ways to see which you like best.
For dry style gins, Hawthorn’s is a straightforward tasting, wheat-based single-batch gin that won’t overpower the Alaska’s other ingredients, and can usually be found for $20–30. If you’re looking for something with a more prominent bouquet, The Botanist is an Islay dry gin packed with enough botanicals to open up new dimensions. However, when it comes to London dry style gins, any of your favorites should work well, as long as they’re not painfully overpowering.
If you opt for Old Tom, Hayman’s is a classic choice that adapts well to 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 compliment to the orange bitters, along with toasted depth. Ransom Old Tom Gin is another alembic distilled, 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 with the Alaska’s original choice of orange bitters (Regan’s is a solid option), as uplifting citrus notes help to create a more vibrant drink than you’d get with something heavier, like Angostura.
In mixing glass filled with ice, add all ingredients except garnish. Stir for 30–45 seconds, until well chilled. Strain into chilled coupe or Nick & Nora glass. Twist orange peel over drink to express oils, and garnish.