Photographs courtesy of the Jewish Whisky Company.
I’m not a big whisky drinker. I’m especially not a whisky drinker at 11:30 in the morning on a workday. But that changed when I had the pleasure of sitting down with Joshua Hatton and Jason Johnstone-Yellin, two of the three founders of the Jewish Whisky Company. (The third founder is Seth Klaskin.)
Prior to founding the JWC, Joshua and Jason had two of the most widely read, respected, followed and admired whisky blogs on the Internet. (Joshua still writes his, which is called jewmalt.com.) Readers would write in for advice and buying suggestions; distilleries would send the guys bottles and ask for their opinions. Over the years, Joshua and Jason found themselves consulting with each other, and eventually became friends.
Readers often asked Joshua, who observes kosher laws, his opinion of the “kosherness” of whisky, and where they could get good whisky that satisfied their dietary needs. That’s when Joshua called Jason and said, “Please tell me this is a crazy idea….”
Instead, Jason applauded the idea — starting an independent whisky bottling company — and thus the Jewish Whisky Company was born.
While the story of Passover may be the reason for having the seder, the real stars of the event are the food and drinks served throughout the evening. Carefully planned, perfected all day for all to enjoy while listening to the hours long story of Moses and the exodus.Like most kids growing up, the reading of the “4 sons” was a significant part of the evening. But what if those sons were a bit older (lets say over the age of 21) and could order a drink alongside their question. What would these guys imbibe based upon their personalities?
The Wise Son: Aperitif Cocktail
The wise son knows that the key to enjoying the seder and making it to the end is by pacing. With one glass of wine already consumed and three more to go, there is no way he will survive the night unless it sticks with something a bit more low proof. And it never hurts to start the evening with an aperitif style drink. This refreshing and slightly citrusy sipper is the perfect way to ease into the nighttime festivities.
• 1.5 oz fresh grapefruit juice
• .5 oz fresh lemon juice
• 1 oz Bartenura Etrog Liqueur
• 3 oz Bartenura Moscato d’asti
• Combine ingredients into a glass, stir lightly and garnish with the oils of a lemon peel.
The Wicked Son: Tequila Shot
The wicked son is always up to no good and is not one to stick to the conventional methods of drinking. Known for making the night a bit more crazy and perhaps putting some people over the edge, the Wicked son opts to drink a shot of straight tequila (no chaser) to awaken his inner mischievous self.
• 1 oz 99 Agave Blanco
The Simple Son: Tom Collins
Sometimes the best cocktails are the least fussy, and this classic from the father of cocktails, Jerry Thomas, will fit the bill for the Simple son. Herbaceous notes from the gin, the bright citrus from the lemon a sweetness of the syrup combine together beautifully in this cocktail. And this guy knows that limes are too overpriced to use this year for the seder, so sticking with lemon juice will alleviate the burden of the holiday tab.• 2 oz Distillery 209 Gin
The One who does not know how to ask: Vodka Soda
It worked in college….you can barely taste it….and it’s safe.
• 2 oz Vodka (we recommend Distillery 209 vodka or L’chaim Vodka)
• Soda water
• Combine in a highball glass over ice. Garnish with a lemon or lime wedge.
When it comes to wine and Judaism, only one word comes to mind: Manischewitz. At some point, we’ve all spent time mocking the sweet, concord grape nectar that gave most Jews their first hangover some time after their bar or bat mitzvahs. However, it seems that these days, the application of this wine in the world of cocktails and beverages may end those jokes.
Today, sweet wines are typically served after meals in the form of Muscats and Ports, but for decades, Jews have been using this brand as a staple for Kiddush during Shabbat dinners and other holidays. With it’s sweet taste and low price point, Manischewitz is a natural fit for cocktails. We scoured the country and asked some of the top talent in the bar scene to craft some tasty Manischewitz cocktails to spice up your Shabbat dinner.
With recipes like these, how could you not break out a bottle, mix a few cocktails and drink L’chaim to the summertime?
One of my favorite things about Jewish holidays is their vivid food symbolism. On Purim, this typically translates into triangular foods, like hamantaschen and kreplach, which represent Haman’s hat, pockets or ears, depending on who you ask. And, while Purim the is one of the few Jewish holidays that encourages drinking, that symbolism has yet to make its way into beverages. So this year, I’m getting in the spirit by concocting some holiday-inspired cocktails to serve up to my friends.
There are varying interpretations on exactly how drunk one should get on Purim, but the general idea is to get drunk enough that you cannot tell the difference between the hero Mordechai and his nemesis Haman. The Book of Esther even commences with a 180-day drinking festival. The biblical drink of choice would be wine, but it’s high time that Purim swills got a modern facelift.
Since Queen Esther is the heroine of the Purim tale, I wanted to invent a cocktail in her honor. The Esther Cocktail starts with pomegranate juice, since the arils of the fruit are reminiscent of the jewels in Esther’s crown. I added rose water, a common Persian ingredient, as an homage to the setting of the tale. Finally, a date honey and poppy seed rim makes for a nod to hamantaschen, as well as a dramatic presentation.
At first glance one might assume that a Sipping Seder, made up of six potent cocktails inspired by the Seder plate, is simply the grown up equivalent of the primary school’s set’s chocolate Seder — an excuse to over indulge, or a means to induce an alcoholic haze to counter the stress of a family Seder. Or perhaps, the maror and shank bone inspired drinks are simply the latest in the long line of Jewish kitsch.
But to meet the creators of this newest Passover culinary innovation is to quickly understand that kitsch, humor and pandering were the furthest things from the minds of Rob Corwin and Danny Jacobs, two serious cocktail enthusiasts. Outsiders may be oblivious, but their cocktail creations are cultural expressions with historic and social value. That seriousness played out in every stage of developing the recently launched Sipping Seder.