Where to Drink in Anchorage, Alaska - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

Where to Drink in Anchorage, Alaska

Alaska operates a bit on its own timeline. Far removed from the Lower 48, both geographically and culturally, the Land of the Midnight Sun and its most populous city, Anchorage, has evolved with a spirit of independence and a hyper-local focus. “People are more excited about what new, local place is opening and who is serving more of Alaska’s bounty—amazing seafood, locally grown produce, and locally produced beer and distilled spirits,” says Laile Fairbairn, an Anchorage native and president of Locally Grown Restaurants, for which she received a James Beard Foundation nomination this year for Outstanding Restaurateur.

“Travelers are often surprised to find great food and drink here, but we’ve got it all…”—Laile Fairbairn

In the 25 years since Fairbairn returned to her hometown and opened Snow City Café, she’s seen “a dramatic shift in both the dining and bar scene,” with craft breweries and top-notch cocktail programs operating alongside beloved dive bars run by local legends. Fairbairn offers a glimpse into the diversity that makes Anchorage a very drink-worthy destination. “Travelers are often surprised to find great food and drink here, but we’ve got it all—fine dining, farm-to-table, food trucks, James Beard–winning chefs, speakeasies, champagne and oyster bars, rooftop bars, and even bartenders with hip mustaches and beards.

49th State Brewing

Paying homage to Alaska’s induction to the U.S., 49th State Brewing launched in 2010 deep in the Alaskan interior near Denali National Park, brewing on a pilot system and repurposing any building materials they could find. But regular community events like their more seasonally appropriate Augtoberfest and annual Solstice Brewfest (and its beloved beer Solstice IPA) have made 49th State an Alaska favorite, and 2016 saw the opening of their Anchorage brewery and three-story restaurant and pub. “They have the best location in downtown Anchorage, with killer views from their deck in the summer,” says Fairbairn.

Double Shovel Cider Co.

Aiming to forward the movement for the rejuvenation of American cider, Double Shovel Cider Co. opened the first cidery in Alaska, with locations in Anchorage and Kodiak. Combining Alaska-grown apples, fruits, and berries with additional apples from the Pacific Northwest, Double Shovel crafts a creative lineup of dry and semisweet hard ciders such as Blueberry Sour, Grapefruit Lavender, and local favorite Farmhouse Hopped barrel-aged cider. Offerings rotate seasonally in the taproom, along with canned options to-go. “The cider bar is in an unlikely location, an industrial warehouse park,” says Fairbairn. “But it’s always packed and they have a rotation of great food trucks outside.”

Spenard Roadhouse

Community-focused to the core, Spenard Roadhouse (one of the establishments under Fairbairn’s Locally Grown Restaurants) supports organizations like Children’s Lunchbox and Covenant House, along with local schools and sports teams. Serving elevated takes on comfort food and Alaska-centric specialties (like reindeer sausage and roasted peppers), the bar specializes in small-batch bourbons in addition to a full cocktail program. “Brown Bag wine and Jell-O shots belie an otherwise sophisticated selection of cocktails, with lots of house-infused spirits,” says Fairbairn. “My drink of choice there is the Rhubarbra Streisand with rhubarb-infused vodka, lemonade, and soda, with pretty strawberry ice cubes.”

Van’s Dive Bar

Admittedly, it’s right there in the name. “Van’s is the dive-iest of dive bars where all the cool kids go,” says Fairbairn. “The reason? It’s owned and operated by old-school Anchorage fine dining Marx Bros. owner Van [Richard ‘Van’ Hale] and his wife, Nikki.” Equally beloved for the cheeky assertions on their marquee sign, the watering hole regularly hosts live music, a “Queer as Hell” night, and other community events and fundraisers. “It’s at the edge of downtown, next door to iconic diner The Lucky Wishbone,” adds Fairbairn. “Pro Tip: Van’s will let you bring in [the diner’s] chicken.”

Whisky & Ramen

Living up to their moniker, Whisky & Ramen (which opened last fall in downtown Anchorage) offers an impressive selection of whisky—around 250 labels that lean heavily Japanese—alongside bowls of ramen like The Dark Horse, topped with whisky-miso crisped pulled pork. The cocktail program also comes out swinging with “some of the most creative and IG-worthy drinks in Anchorage,” says Fairbairn. Riffs like the Komorebi Old Fashioned get dosed with ceremonial matcha and wasanbon sugar, while creative originals like Flowers of Edo feature a sesame-washed rye whiskey with honey-ginger syrup, orange bitters, and smoked ume oolong tea. According to Fairbairn, the experience as a whole gives the Oz-like impression that “you’re not in Anchorage anymore.”

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