The town of Coldfoot lies halfway between Fairbanks and Deadhorse, on a dangerous road that provides supplies to remote oil communities stretched along the arctic coast of Alaska. The town—previously a mining establishment—was reinvigorated by Dick Mackey, a former Iditarod champion who opened up a burger stand in an old school bus. Today, Coldfoot boasts a restaurant, a post office, and even a small airstrip. If that weren’t enough, it now somewhat unofficially boasts its own cocktail, thanks to yours truly. We chose the name as a reference to the recipe's closest sibling: the Alaska, but it also feels right at home with the utterly icy package of ingredients we conjured up.
The Coldfoot began as an excuse to tinker with creme de menthe, a criminally underutilized ingredient that likely gets the shaft for its difficult flavor profile and overwhelming strength. For inspiration, we looked to the hanky panky, another drink that walks the line, but instead with the famously difficult fernet branca. The hanky panky succeeds by dropping the difficult ingredient's dosage substantially—all the way down to a dash—and effectively employing it as a bitter. Similarly, we reduced the dosage of creme de menthe substantially and the results are lovely. All four ingredients come through on the nose for a transfixing whiff of juniper, maraschino, fresh mint, and chartreuse. The sip is sweet at first from the green chartreuse and maraschino liqueur, but follows quickly with balancing heat from the strong ingredients and gin base. As an added bonus, the red cherry and green body make for a downright festive holiday appearance.
Mint is an amazingly complex herb, something anyone who has eaten a good tagine can attest to. Luckily for us, exquisite labels like Tempus Fugit and Giffard Menthe Pastille are making the complex flavors of mint more readily available. These versions go beyond the one-dimensional flavors of old school schnapps and offer many of the complex layers found in the fresh stuff. As for the gin: it might be tempting to reach for something complex, but with all these other flavors flying around, we find simple is best. We make ours with BarMatt’s gin to excellent results. We tend to prefer a milder maraschino such as Maraska, and that’s what we use here. Luxardo might be good too, especially since the drink is pretty bold, but we haven’t tried it yet. This recipe calls for a teaspoon of creme de menthe, but if you are feeling spunky, a quarter ounce isn’t bad either.