Years ago, there was a challenge that many people in Anchorage would attempt called the “Miracle Mile”. The task was to start at the Cheechako Bar and make your way down Fireweed to Spenard, and then up Spenard towards Minnesota Drive. Usually performed in groups, the goal was to stop at every drinking establishment on the way to your destination: PJ’s Strip Club, and be intoxicated enough to make the trip worth it.
Over the past decade or so, there have been a lot of changes along those roads. The Cheechako is now Reilly’s, Chilkoot Charlies is now Koots, LaMex is gone, and the finish line, PJ’s, was demolished and lives only in the hazy memories of the aforementioned drunken patrons. One bar that still stands along the way is the Carousel Lounge. After being closed for a couple of years, and opened last summer under new ownership and management, has found an entirely new crowd of loyal patrons.
On Facebook, the joint is described as “Your friendly neighborhood dive bar since 1957”, but upon walking into the establishment you don’t get a dive bar feel. The neighborhood aspect is certainly present, with patrons greeting each other like old friends, whether they have met before or not. The location is clean, and inviting, with dart boards, a jukebox, and three pool tables so that there is rarely a wait to play.
The bartender works the large wraparound bar making sure that every patron is well taken care of and satisfied. Hanna Lake has been with the Carousel since the relaunch last year and has eight years under her belt as a mixologist. She enjoys her job and says, “I love the Carousel”, continuing, “I enjoy working here. All the customers are great people. Having regulars is really nice.”
The Carousel offers a lot of diversity in it’s entertainment, so that crowd of usual patrons can change daily for the staff. “I think it’s some of everybody, but it also depends on the day. On open mic night it’s more of the hippy Spenard crowd, Tuesdays and Thursdays can get loud, but it’s always Rock, Classic Rock, 80’s, 90’s. It caters to everyone I think.” Lake reported. She spoke of the weekly schedule that keeps it interesting. “Monday night we have free pool, Tuesday is Matt and Co.”
Tuesday is also Taco Tuesday which means that people come in and enjoy the food buffet style.
“Tacos starting at 5pm. Wednesday is open mic. Thursday is Motown fever. Friday and Saturday, it really depends, sometimes we have music both nights, sometimes just once a week,” Lake said. “We usually always post that on the Facebook page. Sundays we have karaoke, and that’s probably one of my favorite nights to work, getting to see the people that come in for that.”
When Lake is not behind the bar, she enjoys hanging out at the bar, and having some of her favorite libation.
“I do Tequila! Herradura or Correlejo,” she says.
While Hannah is working, she does do some mixing with her favorite spirit, but mostly she plays with vodka, a specific brand of vodka at that. “I do some things with Tequilas, but it’s close to Margaritas and stuff like that. I also like to mix with Ketel One and the juices that we have.”
Currently the bar has been selling a lot of AgwaBomb shots. Agwa de Bolivia is an herbal liqueur made with Bolivian coca leaves, and 37 other natural herbs and botanicals, including ginseng, green tea, and guarana. While it has been on the market for quite a while, it has recently been making a comeback. For the AgwaBomb shot, a specialty glass is used that hold the chaser in the bottom of an hourglass or beaker shaped chalice, and then the shot is poured on top, giving the liqueur the ability to float, almost suspended.
For the popular version of this shooter, the staff uses Tropical flavored RedBull as the base, but there are other versions available. Lake isn’t such a fan, but she will happily make them for you.
“We also have Biker Bombs, which is Cranberry RedBull on the bottom and the Agwa on top, but the Tropical is a lot better, in my opinion,” she said. When she is not having tequila, she will take part in a round occasionally, but the energy drink portion isn’t always for her. “I love the Agwa Bomb, but I cannot do too much RedBull. I will do a couple with everyone, but I can’t for long.”
Over the years, Spenard has gone through some changes. It has been called the “Wild West” of Anchorage; it has been a legendary location for the best stories of drunken revelry, and now it is becoming of the most sought-after neighborhoods for young families, artists, and those who love living in a place with great history and a culture all its own. As the area grows and changes, the Carousel continues to grow and change with it, meeting the needs of its neighbors and maintaining its place in the legend that is that stretch of road.