Thirsty in Spenard with The Fermented Alaskan

Carissa Pearce is an Anchorage born and raised Alaskan who adds a unique twist to her cocktails. Foraging for her own ingredients to use in bitters, shrubs, amari, liqueurs and tinctures, Pearce skips the store bought goods when she can for a fresher, healthier taste. Her cocktail recipes have gained international recognition and she shares what she’s learned through mixology workshops offered at Anchorage Distillery and social media. She is the district manager for the Bacardi, Campari, Patron and Sazerac accounts in Anchorage and also bartends for private events, many in Spenard at Fiori D’Italia.

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Pearce points out one of many cabinets full of bitters, shrubs, syrups, amari, liqueurs and tinctures; all of which she makes herself using foraged Alaskan ingredients. She uses these in her own cocktail recipes, which have been recognized on a global scale.
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Pearce pulls out frozen blueberries, fiddleheads and other foraged items from a freezer. “Luckily, I do freeze what I pick, so I just pull out whatever I need and thaw it out to use in the winter,” Pearce said. She says hand-picked blueberries are better than the chewy ice-balls bought from a store. “Fresh is best.”
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Pearce stands in front of her freezer with some of her foraged ingredients that she uses to make cocktails. She says making her cocktails this way introduces a lot of health benefits. “There are no harmful chemicals on the fruit, herbs [and] roots that I pick. It is so much better for you,” she said. She’s noticed with the warmer climate, berry season lasts longer. “A few years ago, the berries were all shriveled up and done by the end of September. Now they are still full and plump by the end of the month. I’ve enjoyed the longer season.”
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Many of the ingredients Pearce uses can be found within an hour’s drive from Anchorage. She likes blueberries from Portage Pass, but will often hike the Chugach Mountains and in Girdwood to find what she needs. She even makes drinks on location, bringing her tools with her in a case, that was gifted to her by her boyfriend, Joel. “If it’s a short hike, I have a carrying case for my infusions, spirits, mixers, garnishes, etc…,” she said.
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Pearce uses a variety of methods to take advantage of her foraged Alaskan ingredients. While she will sometimes use a sous vide for infusions, her bitters, amari, tinctures and liqueurs are typically made using a cold press. “This combines all my ingredients with the spirit with no heat added,” she said. Pearce uses a hot method when making syrups. She lets the ingredients simmer in water and sugar and lets it sit for an hour before straining. “I use different combinations of fruits, herbs, etc depending on what I’m deciding to make. I come up with a recipe and work on it until it is perfected.” A recipe for Pearce can take anywhere from 5 minutes to a couple of days to make.
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Pearce’s decision to use foraged Alaskan ingredients was made after making a raspberry liqueur using berries picked from her own backyard. “It was a night and day difference between using store bought raspberries, so I decided to start using more local plants in my infusions,” she said. “I’ve been foraging ever since.”
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From raw ingredients to cocktails, Pearce believes foraging for yourself leads to a better taste. Pearce recommends “The Drunk Botanist” by Amy Stewart for learning about different plants and how they relate to alcohol.

To find out more about Carissa Pearce and her Alaskan cocktails, you can e-mail her at thefermentedalaskan@outlook.com or find her on Instagram @thefermentedalaskan.

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