Imagine drinking rather than eating a big lunker salmon.
Toby Foster did and then he made the unusual choice of distilling it into vodka.
"The first three or four times, it was gag city," he said.
In all, it took the Wasilla distiller nearly 50 attempts to perfect the recipe for his new Smoked Salmon Flavored Vodka, now available in liquor stores, bars and restaurants in Alaska and in some locations in the Lower 48.
Salmon vodka is the costliest and most stressful product that Foster's 2-year-old company, the Alaska Distillery, has produced since its inception, he said.
The existence of a salmon-flavored vodka prompts a reasonable person to ask many questions, starting with "Why?"
Foster believes salmon vodka is Alaska's contribution to the large variety of boutique vodkas that have flooded the liquor market over the past decade or so, including bacon-flavored vodka from Seattle.
Salmon vodka is a way to build quick national recognition for the Alaska Distillery that it wouldn't otherwise get from other flavored varieties, Foster contends.
"I would like to be national," Foster said of his local distillery, which uses both Alaska and non-Alaska ingredients. For example, the distillery uses Alaska-grown potatoes for its premium-brand vodka, Permafrost, but imported grain for the salmon vodka and some of its other varieties. For now, at least, the smoked salmon is purchased from local stores.
By Foster's thinking, if he's going to make a big break in the vodka world, "It's probably going to be smoked salmon. Because it's so silly."
Which leads to another question. Who would drink such a thing?
"First of all, ick. Second of all, I haven't served one," said Amber Sheffield, a server at Humpy's Great Alaskan Ale House downtown.
The owner of another popular bar downtown, Bernie's Bungalow Lounge, Bernie Souphanavong, said he doesn't think he's sold any of it either.
Foster said his product has been out for a month and the marketing at local bars will begin soon. His team is considering a launch party and promotional events.
For now, there are a few salmon vodka enthusiasts on the local restaurant scene: Amy Mack, a manager at the Bear Tooth Grill who dabbles in cocktail recipe creation, is one of them.
"Toby and myself, we've had a really good relationship since the beginning of their business," Mack said.
When Foster brought the salmon vodka to her restaurant, Mack sampled it and considered how she would use it in a mixed drink.
"It doesn't taste like you are drinking a fish," she said. Instead, it tastes smoky, with a "very light underlayer of the salmon."
"It's like you are sitting around a campfire and someone just lit a charcoal grill. I can almost taste bacon when I think about it," she said.
She created a chipotle Bloody Mary mix to go with the vodka.
"We ran that special for two weeks. The customers' first reaction was the wrinkled brow look. But they were still curious," she said.
During the special, the restaurant sold a couple per day, more during brunch on weekends, when the salmon-tinged Bloody Mary outsold the usual brunch cocktail, the orange juice-champagne mimosa.
"One guy wanted a martini made out of it. He loved it. He had three of them," she said.
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