50 Shots of America–Alaska

East Meets EastI think it’s safe to say that more people know more about Alaska these days (thanks to shows like Ice Road Truckers, Gold Rush Alaska and, of course, the Palin family escapades in and out of the political arena) than they ever did when all we had was Northern Exposure, Jack London and the Iditarod to shape our opinions of the 49th state.

Back in Middle School (you may know of it as Junior High), we had a transfer student from Alaska and the one thing I remember her saying, difference-wise between there and here was that she was shocked at the number of single-story houses, here. Apparently two-story was the norm in her Alaskan town and the cost of living was much lower. Whether that was truly the case (we’re talking about the observations of 13-year-olds, here) it certainly isn’t now. But it’s what sticks as my co-earliest memory of the state.

It’s pair is one is one of the very (very) few things I retained from any sort of American History class–that the territory (purchased from Russia in 1867 at pennies per acre) was known, colloquially, as Seward’s Folly. Of course, once gold was discovered in Alaska (the big Klondike rush in 1896), the tune changed dramatically, though it wasn’t until January 3, 1959, that the Land of the Midnight Sun achieved statehood.

East Meets East

1 0z Vanilla Vodka
1 oz Pomegranate Juice
3/4 oz Sake
Crushed Ice

Combine the vodka, juice and sake over ice in a mixing glass. Shake vigorously, until the mixture resembles the icy tundra. Fill a small, chilled glass 3/4 full of crushed ice. Strain the cocktail over the fresh ice.

Why the 2 batches of ice? If you shake a drink with crushed ice, the amount of water you’re adding (i.e. dilution) will be greater and the ice will be “tired” when it’s time to sip your drink. If you don’t have an ice crusher, skip the blender and put some cubes in a clean flour-sack towel and beat it with your muddler or a rolling pin until the ice reaches the level of crush you desire.

This drink is a little larger than some of the “shots” I’ve featured in this series, but for the biggest state in the nation it seemed appropriate. Due to said size and the eastward spread of the Aleutian Islands, it’s both the westernmost and easternmost state in the United States. Obviously it’s also the northernmost state. The flavor influence of the drink is a nod to the early Russian settlers as well as the Japanese that occupied the aforementioned Aleutian Islands during WWII.

The pomegranate, though, was pure fancy on my part. The long stretches of darkness and light (polar night and midnight sun, respectively) that Alaska encounters made me think of the myth of Persephone and the pomegranate seeds. It adds color, flavor and balance to the vodka and sake mix.

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