Alaska is a place I’ve always wanted to visit. I’ve managed to visit (or at least pass through) 48 of the 50 states – but Alaska is not among them.

And since my firm has an office in Anchorage I don’t have a good reason for not having visited yet. I really should try to change that.

Of course, if I do change it I’ll need to be careful in visiting one of Alaska’s handful of licensed distilleries. There’s a bit of a tempest taking place in The Last Frontier when it comes to what these outfits can and cannot sell.

The basic problem comes down to whether tasting rooms can serve cocktails. Historically, a majority of licensed Alaskan distillers have done just that. But this autumn, all of that was thrown into question when the state’s Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office issued an Advisory to the effect that serving cocktails was not allowed under the terms of their license.

But of course words are important, and the language of the Advisory contained the following sentence:

Please regard this Advisory Notice as Enforcement’s directive to cease selling or giving as samples drinks that are made by mixing your distilled product with other ingredients that are not produced on the licensed premises.

Reading this, at least a few of the good and resourceful distillers of Alaska took heed and began making their non-alcoholic mixers on their premises – for the purpose of being able to comply with the Advisory. Good, right?

Not so much, at least not according to the Director of the Alcohol & Marijuana Control Office, which promptly issued an additional Advisory in which she indicated that what she really meant to say was that distillers shouldn’t be providing mixed samples of any kind – regardless of whether the non-alcoholic mixers were produced on-site.

Ok. So no mixed samples with products made off-site. And no mixed samples with products made on-site. What’s a frontier distiller to do?

Serve the mixer separately, apparently.

As reported recently by the Juneau Empire, the Board voted unanimously to open public comment on rulemaking that would prohibit distilleries from serving cocktails, but would allow them to serve customers samples and separately packaged mixers. In other words, if the customer mixed the cocktail (presumably under the watchful eye and instruction of the distillery employee) then there’s no problem under the law.

For the record – this is seriously silly.

Alaska is a state where drunken moose have been known to wander around urban areas. So Alaskans understand and can appreciate a certain level of silliness. But still. Selling the ingredients of a cocktail together in a single cup for consumption is bad, but selling them separately in two separate containers and allowing them to be mixed and consumed immediately is just fine? I love legal technicalities as much as the next guy (assuming the next guy is a moderately pedantic bow tie wearing lawyer) – but even I’m having a hard time explaining that logic.