One of my favorite anecdotes is a likely apocryphal story that dates back to the mid-1950s. According to this story (first mentioned in print in 1956), a group of engineers were trying to develop an electronic system to translate English to Russian and vice versa. One of the first phrases that they tried was, «The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.» The machine instantly translated it first to Russian then back to English, and came up with, «The liquor is good, but the meat is rotten.»
In the mid-1950s—and for that matter in the early 2000s—just the opposite was true at most Passover meals: the meat was good but the liquor was rotten. Thankfully, today that need no longer be the case. There are a growing number of quality kosher l’Pesach spirits—and for me, good spirits call for good cocktails.
For cocktails, I would stick to two spirits: gin (use Distillery 209’s kosher edition) and brandy (either a v.s. [i.e., young] cognac or an Israeli brandy). And, of course, you will have to buy an inexpensive cocktail shaker and perhaps a few cocktail glasses. Yet the zing that cocktails can add to your Passover celebrations, for me, far outweigh the cost of ingredients and equipment. Below are a couple of each gin and brandy cocktail suggestions.
Wishing you all a zissen Pesach.
Clover Club Cocktail
This gin-based cocktail was named for, and first served to, the Clover Club, a late 19th century organization of Philadelphia society where members would wine, and wine, and wine, and dine.
- ¼ cup 209 gin
- 2 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 Tablespoon Kedem Raspberry Syrup
- 1 egg white
Fill a cocktail glass or a champagne coupe with ice water to chill the glass. In a cocktail shaker, add the gin and the egg white and shake for 30 seconds. (The alcohol in the gin should kill any unwanted bacteria.) Then add the lemon juice and raspberry syrup, and shake for another 30 seconds. Add a handful of ice cubes, then shake for another minute or two. Pour the ice water out of the cocktail glass and then strain in the contents of the cocktail shaker. Enjoy.
Subtle yet refreshing, this cocktail was named for the long defunct Southside Sportsmen’s Club of Long Island, where the drink was invented in the early 20th century. The club—whose membership roll included names like August Belmont, William K. Vanderbilt, Charles Louis Tiffany, Ulysses Grant, Teddy Roosevelt, Andrew Carnegie, and Adlai Stevenson—was known for its mint juleps, which eventually evolved into the Southside Cocktail, a refreshing mixture of London Dry Gin, lemon juice, sugar and mint. The following is adapted from a recipe in Harry Craddock’s 1930 “Savoy Cocktail Book.”
- 1/4 cup Gin 209
- 1 1/2 teaspoon superfine sugar
- 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Leaves from two sprigs of mint
- Ice cubes
Fill a cocktail glass or a champagne coupe with ice water to chill the glass. Add the sugar, lemon juice and mint to the tin of a cocktail shaker, and muddle well with a wooden muddler (or, in a pinch, with a wooden mixing spoon) until the sugar is dissolved. Fill the shaker with ice, add the gin, put on the shaker top, and shake well. Pour the ice water out of the cocktail glass, and then strain in the contents of the cocktail shaker. Float a mint leaf on top as a garnish. Enjoy.
A modern variant of the Southside, this is a cocktail that I am particularly fond of drinking during the spring and summer months. It is made the same as the Southside, except that a slice or two of (preferably English) cucumber is muddled with the sugar, mint and lemon juice. Garnish with a slice of cucumber. Enjoy.
The Daisy is a 19th century cocktail that was popular in the days of the Civil War. There are many variations of the Daisy, but the brandy version has always been considered the most luxurious.
- 3 Tablespoon cognac
- 4½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 Tablespoons Kedem Raspberry Syrup
Fill a cocktail glass or a champagne coupe with ice water in order to chill the glass. Place all of the ingredients with ice into a cocktail shaker and shake well. Pour the ice water out of the cocktail glass, and then strain in the contents of the cocktail shaker. Enjoy.
This rich potation—I think of it as more of an alcoholic milkshake than as a cocktail—was invented decades before the now ubiquitous teleconferencing app was developed.
- ¼ cup brandy
- 1 Tablespoon Honey Syrup (recipe below)
- 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
- Pinch of cocoa powder (optional garnish)
Fill a cocktail glass or a champagne coupe with ice water to chill the glass. Place the brandy, syrup and cream, with ice, into a cocktail shaker and shake well. Pour the ice water out of the cocktail glass, and then strain in the contents of the cocktail shaker. Dust with a pinch of cocoa powder. Enjoy.
- 3 Tablespoons mild flavored honey (orange blossom or clover would be good choices)
- 1 Tablespoon boiling water
Add the boiling water to the honey and stir until well incorporated. Allow to cool to room temperature before use. Will keep for two weeks if refrigerated.
Gamliel Kronemer has been writing for more than 15 years about kosher wine, spirits, cocktails and food in a number of Jewish newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link. He lives with his wife, Jessica, in Silver Spring, MD.