Alaska – Recipe below from ‘Old Waldorf Bar Days’
Dash of Orange Bitters
One-third Yellow Chartreuse
Two-thirds Tom Gin
This drink first crops up in Harry Craddock’s Savoy guide in 1930, he’s a little cryptic about the source of the name stating “So far as can be ascertained this delectable potion is NOT the staple diet of the Esquimaux. It was probably first thought of in South Carolina hence its name,” and I think I’m going to leave the origin search there. It’s obviously quite a popular drink though as it then pops up in Old Waldorf bar days a year later in 1931, which I think is pretty good for a drink. If you think about it there’s no mention of it anywhere, then it manages a 6 day Atlantic crossing, then has enough time in New York to become popular and well known enough to appear in another cocktail book a year later. That’s pretty good going for any new drink these days let alone in the 1930’s.
I’ve seen this drink in a lot of books, I think I remember all of the ‘A’ drinks, merely because they’re the first I stumble across, and place name drinks are mentally easy to remember.
David Embury uses 6-7 parts gin and one part chartreuse, and still complains that its too much chartreuse, and is ‘greatly improved by using less chartreuse and adding 1-2 parts dry sherry. This is called a Nome’. So yes I had to try this as well.
The classic version is sweet, almost diabetes sweet. I can’t help but think that in a prohibition weary New York, the sweeter the better, probably to bulldoze over the flavour of bad booze. I can’t think of an excuse for the Savoy.
We tried it the Embury way, and a Nome. The Embury way is better than the classic, and playing around with different gins works brilliantly.
The Nome is fascinating. It tastes just like a martini, which makes a lot of sense. Chartreuse is 130 different herbs and spices. Sherry is a fortified wine. Vermouth is a fortified wine with herbs and spices. The Nome simply deconstructs the vermouth into Chartreuse and sherry so of course it works. As a concept I guess this gives you more control as you can basically make your own vermouth, and as a ‘formula’ for further drinks it has a lot of scope. There’s a fine line there however between tinkering for tinkering’s sake, and doing something exciting and I’m not sure where this sits.
Oh, and a Nome is ‘an administrative division of modern Greece’. Sexy.