Drinking in Alaska: Don’t Bork It Up

Drinking season is almost upon us. Or, well, the summer drinking season. Perhaps my perspective is slightly skewed from hanging around too many MFA grad students, but it seems like Alaskans drink a lot. I know more than a handful of folks who brew their own beer, wine, or mead. I used to be married to an engineer who brewed beer with the same kind of record keeping, careful calculations, and mathematical precision of, well, an engineer. And it was good. I think I spent the last few years of our marriage in a drunken haze, not because the marriage was falling apart, but because his IPA was rockin’. I try to be nice to him not just for our kids’ sakes, but because I’m hoping he will keep giving me a few bottles of his IPA every Christmas.

Mike King standing in front of Revolution Brewing.

My friends Mike and Gretchen King, former students and employees of UAF, started their own brewery in Paonia, Colorado, Revolution Brewing. The business seems to be doing well—no surprise, since they learned how to brew the good stuff in Fairbanks, Alaska. I follow Revolution Brewing on Facebook and it never fails to surprise me how much fun they always seem to be having: local bands, beer fueled chess games (don’t play chess with Mike, he will slaughter you), family picnic-style gatherings. I wish they had started the brewery here, but forgoing that, I wish he would just send me some of his Miner’s Gold Ale.

Summer drinking in AK is a little different than the self-medicating imbibing that seems to occur in the winter. Summertime drinkers look a little happier playing horseshoes out at the Howling Dog than they do while chain smoking at the Oasis in January. With my deck slowly but surely thawing out, and with the geese apparently returning to the Interior, my thoughts have been turning to BBQs, beers, and the return of the Midnight Sun (don’t be a buzzkill and remind me that there is still snow on the ground and not a leaf to be seen…I know, already). But this summer I’m contemplating some mixed drinks, drinks that require recipes.


If any of my close friends are reading this, they’re laughing their fool heads off right now. I am a notoriously bad drink mixer. Apparently, I approach mixed-drinks like the Swedish Chef, blissfully throwing in any ingredient that sounds good, making a mess, and generally screwing it up. But I vow that this summer will be different. I will learn how to mix drinks. I will study the masters and practice like a good student. I will make a bloody mary you would rather drink than pour down the drain when I’m not looking. I will measure the shots, and you will never again hear me say “that seems about right”.

First up, Paula Deen’s recipe for a Bloody Mary. I’m picking her recipe because while Alaskans have a lockdown on winter boozing, Southerners know how to drink in the morning with great aplomb. Here is Miss Paula’s recipe:

  • 1 (46-ounce) can vegetable juice (recommended: V8)
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 1 tablespoon celery seed
  • 4 shakes hot sauce
  • Ice cubes
  • 10 celery sticks, for garnish

Pour the juice into a large pitcher. Add the pepper, salt, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, vodka, celery seed, and hot sauce. Stir well. Pour into jars with lids for traveling. Serve over ice with celery sticks as stirrers.

But we all know I won’t stick to this recipe, right? If my “adjustments” taste good, I will share the recipe with you. If I bork it up, I will pretend like I never wrote this post.

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11 thoughts on “Drinking in Alaska: Don’t Bork It Up

  • Gretchen King

    Don’t forget the possibility of hitting up Talkeetna for Denali Brewing Company’s beers. Mike taught Boe Barnett to brew while in said Fairbanks, and Boe and Jen (also former UAF employee and students) started DBC. I hear it’s good but haven’t had the pleasure due to distance : (

    Oh, and for the record, I STILL work at UAF : )
    Cheers Madara — love reading your stuff and viewing your art!

  • duende

    And when it gets really “hot,” maybe you could experiment with creating a recipe for agua de sevilla. Seems like you might have drunk a little when Rebe made it that summer of ’92…

  • Bruce A.

    For a uniquely Alaska twist on the traditional Bloody Mary, I like to use Alaska Distillery Smoked Salmon Vodka, then rim the drink with Alaskan Alder Smoked Sea-Salt (by the folks who make Moosetard, it’s sold at Homegrown Market). It makes a salty, smoky Bloody Mary that has deeper flavor than the vanilla recipe.

  • Alaska Food & Wine

    I definitely agree with Bruce’s suggestion to try the smoked salmon-infused vodka from Alaska Distillery for a kick-ass Bloody Mary, but I suggest avoiding it for a martini unless you are going to serve it to a seriously hard-core salmon fan.

    For beer, keep your eye on the 49th State Brewing Company and Brewpub in Healy, Alaska, 10 miles north of Denali National Park. The owners are ramping up the brewery and should have their own beers available by May. They also carry wide variety of Alaskan beer to pair with the upscale pub grub served in the restaurant — the best food in Healy.


  • Jenny

    Lady, you crack me up! Thanks for the link up… I’m honored! And I was just reading a bloody mary recipe that called for smoked salmon vodka–which I am VERY afraid of. I want to sample the poison before I buy a whole bottle, ya know? And with smoked salt? Wow, that’s some intense flavor going on. I can dig it.

  • Jean

    Smoked salmon vodka –hmmmmm. Sometimes fish in liquor may not be the best. Just the beautiful smoked salmon as is and separately, a glass of white wine. 🙂

    Is Alaska known for smoked salmon, like British Columbia is known for the rest of Canada. (alot of Atlantic salmon is farmed.)

    Admittedly I’m not a beer drinker but then I can’t hold alcohol well. It’s in my genes..oh well, keeps me out of trouble.

    I suspect to be up North, one would need to get into beers and ales. Or at least that’s my stereotype.