Alaska was not even a state when this combination of gin and yellow Chartreuse was invented. The drink does not contain snow or even ice. It is sometimes referred to as the Emerald Martini which makes no more sense than calling it the Alaska. Harry Craddock of The Savoy Cocktail Book fame is of no help: “So far as can be ascertained this delectable potion is NOT the staple diet of the Esquimaux.” Gee, thanks, Harry. One could call it a Citron Martini, I suppose, though it doesn’t sound as nice as emerald. Or what about a Chrysoberyl Cocktail. Nah, too hard to spell or pronounce. Did no one think of using green Chartreuse for a drink called the Emerald? In all probability, the vaguely gold-colored drink is named for the gold rush boom in Alaska and the Yukon that started in the 1890s and continued through the nineteen teens. Alaska has 21 official languages. Not as many as the number of botanicals in Chartreuse, but twenty is still a lot. Yes, I’m pulling at straws, here, trying to make the connection. I still have no idea where the hell Emerald Martini comes from. I’ve stopped worrying about it.
The earliest version of this drink I can find is from Straub’s Manual of Mixed Drinks of 1913 and it reappears in most cocktail books thereafter. A number of versions, including Barflies and Cocktails (1927) leave out the bitters, but I don’t see the point. Leave it in. It is as follows:
1 Dash Orange Bitters
1/3 Jigger Yellow Chartreuse (1 oz)
2/3 Jigger Tom Gin (2 oz Old Tom Gin)
It is a lovely, rather delicate drink and really should be stirred with ice and strained into a chilled cocktail glass. To shake it would be like throwing a brick through a stained glass window. Since it is a martini-style drink with the Chartreuse replacing the vermouth, there is room here to play with the style of gin as well as the proportions. However, if you wish to honor the original intentions of the drink as a soft, floral, herbaceous potation, I would not stray too far. Hendricks gin works very well in this drink, as does Hayman’s Old Tom, both gins being on the softer side. By all means, try your favorite gins and see what most strikes your fancy.
So, call up your inner sled dog and enjoy the Alaska Cocktail. Woof!