An Interior Tradition Revisited
Life was a little different growing up in the small town of Delta Junction in the Alaskan Interior. Long summer nights infused with the smoke of a campfire and illuminated by the pale glow of sunset merging into sunrise. Endless winter nights spent huddled around a warm fireplace, enveloped by darkness and an eerie stillness found only when the temperature dips below -20° for days on end.
Whether it was the heat of summer or the dark of winter, one tradition kept us well fortified against the elements: drinking. And while most of what was being tossed back would be a far cry from the sophisticated and stylish concoctions served up by bartenders across the state, there’s still plenty of inspiration to be found in tradition.
One such tradition was a unique blend of equal parts Canadian whisky and blackberry brandy known as Hanyak Sauce. Favored by the old timers as a simple, nofuss tipple well suited for passing around a campfire or for fending off the chill during the fall hunting season, Hanyak Sauce could also be lengthened with a splash of lemon-lime soda—a more popular option for the home-from-college (or never-left-town) kids cutting loose at a lakeside volleyball game or a gravel pit party.
But what’s in a name? Oddly enough, as often as we heard the term tossed about growing up, none of us really knew what the hell a Hanyak was. A quick Google search today yields some answers:
Hanyak: An out-of-line Polish soldier. A nonconformist. A rebel without a cause. An aggressive athlete.
Now it’s starting to make some sense. And if you change the spelling ever so slightly, you get the ever more apropos:
Honyok: Youngsters up to mischief. A rube or simpleton. A hardscrabble farm.
Pretty spot on, considering the blue-collar, agrarian roots of rowdy Delta Junction.
Whether it was uttered by sourdoughs as a derogatory term for Eastern European greenhorns or used with a sense of pride by newcomers barely able to eke out a living in hardscrabble Delta Junction prior to the pipeline days, Hanyak is a quintessentially Interior term.
Whatever the case may be, we fondly remember Hanyak Sauce and thought it would be fun to rework the rustic combo of Canadian whisky and blackberry brandy into a modern cocktail that pays homage to an Interior tradition.
1 ounce Pine Creek Canadian Whisky
1 ounce lemon juice
¾ ounce blackberry brandy
¼ ounce maple syrup
2 drops thyme tincture (we recommend Addition Thyme Cocktail Spice)
Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice until outside is frosted. Strain into a chilled champagne flute and top with San Pellegrino Limonata or club soda. Garnish with a skewered blackberry and lemon twist.