Bushwhacking your way to bartending in Alaska: an Interview with Rachael Caraway

Interview by Ashley Bolwerk, expedition guide on Wilderness Adventurer of Rachael Caraway, bartender aboard Wilderness Explorer

Kayak-up bar in Alaska

Where did you learn to bartend?

“Honestly, I always wanted to be a bartender, but you can’t get a bartending job without experience. So, I memorized a ton of recipes and finagled my way in to my first gig. I think the bar manager knew it though because his revenge was throwing me into the St. Patty’s Day chaos on my first night. From there it was all on the job training: sink or swim, and I’ve been swimming ever since.”

What is your favorite part about bartending?

“As a bartender I can go anywhere and find work. Not only that, but as a bartender I get to cultivate a social world, that is fun and welcoming. Plus, I’m the Queen of the Bar, and everybody loves the bartender!”

What’s your biggest source of inspiration for your cocktails?

“The person in front of me. The people, who walk up to the bar, without knowing what they want to drink really get my creative juices flowing. I always ask what their base spirit of choice is and whether they tend to like their cocktails fruity, bubbly, or savory. From there I craft a drink that matches the vibe that I’m getting from the person, and my favorite is watching them take their first sip.”

What is your favorite cocktail ingredient?

“I love to use the juice from Bing Bordeaux Cherries. It’s great as a float or a sugar substitute.”

 What makes boat bartending different?

“On the boat, you get to know the guests super quickly because they are at your ‘bar’ every day. By the end of the week, they become your friends, but as they disembark, I always wonder when and where, in my future wonderings, our paths will cross again.”

What makes Alaska special for you?

“Gosh, this is the hardest question to answer. My family at home always asks this question, and I cannot put into words the magic that I feel in Alaska. It is the perpetual feeling that photos and words just cannot do it justice. Everybody has to experience the magic of Alaska for themselves.”

Bushwhacker cocktail

 An original Alaskan Cocktail Recipe by Rachael:

The Bushwhacker

1.5oz fresh watermelon juice (blended and strained)

0.5oz fresh squeezed lime juice

0.5oz agave nectar

3 mint leaves

1.5oz Juneauper gin

Topped with ginger beer

Slap the mint leaves and add them to a Collin’s glass with the lime juice and agave nectar. Muddle. Fill the glass with ice. Add the gin and watermelon juice, then stir. Float some ginger beer on top and garnish with the shaved watermelon rind, a watermelon rind wedge with a mint leaf.