Contributing editor David Draper recently returned from a fishing trip in Alaska. While there, we asked him to cover all things salmon–cooking, eating, and, in this case drinking. This is the first of five stories from his trip.

There are a number of foods associated with Alaska, where reindeer sausages are sold on street corners and a restaurant’s menu isn’t complete without an appetizer of fried halibut chunks. But no edible epitomizes the last frontier like smoked salmon. In the peak of salmon season, an alder-smoked haze settles over the state as residents put up fish and commercial operations fill their smokers with fresh red flesh. Tourists and angling-challenged locals spend their savings on Denali’s delicacy.


Just when we all thought every smoked-salmon variable had been it explored, some enterprising distillers just up the valley from Anchorage broke the boundary from food to drink with the introduction of Smoked Salmon Vodka.I quite literally stumbled on to this interesting elixir as I drank my way through a bout of solstice sunlight overdose. At first blush, I assumed the Alaska Distillery bottle behind the bar was just a local variation of the Russian standard, but the second blush took the form of a pink-tinged vodka tonic the barmaid sat in front of me. Never one to hesitate, I took a long pull off the drink and was surprised to find it not bad, interesting even. I didn’t notice any true salmon flavor, more just a slick, spicy note mostly likely tamed by a heavy pour of tonic.

What passes for sundown in Alaska put an end to my experimentation that night, but I’d already starting thinking about a better way to enjoy the salmon vodka. What follows is the recipe for what I’m going to call the Matanuska Mary. –David Draper

Put one slice each of dill pickle and pickled jalapeno in the bottom of a pint glass.
Fill glass with ice.
Cover with a heavy dusting of lemon pepper.
Add one squeeze of lemon juice and a dash of Worcestershire.
Pour in appropriate level of Smoked Salmon Vodka as dictated by the previous night’s activities.
Top with Clamato.
Stir with celery stalk and enjoy.
Repeat responsibly.

Contributing editor David Draper is the author of the food blog, The Feral Fork.