You may not know this, but chances are you’ve had a kosher cocktail at one point or another. I’m serious. No, you did not have a rabbi for a bartender. No, it was not because it was served on Shabbat. And no, your drink was probably not blessed, either.
Believe it or not, kosher cocktails are not as elusive as you think. Mixology, or the art and science of cocktails, has noticed an emerging trend amongst cocktail brewers, particularly those of the Jewish faith. As the industry grows, so does its perception of a quality cocktail, which brings us to the topic of what is a kosher cocktail and where we can find one.
Let me start from the beginning. Before mixology even became a widely accepted term, bartenders were making drinks that satisfied their customers, plain and simple. Either you carried good whiskey or you didn’t. Let’s not forget our cultural association with drinking establishments and libations even had (and in some places still do) racial and stereotypical undertones, even refusing to serve particular people. While those times may not have fully past us as of yet, the majority of the bartending and cocktail world has changed.
The paradigm has dramatically shifted toward a more crafted, focused approach to cocktails that permit anyone that wishes to take advantage of the opportunities to sample a mixologist’s carefully crafted cocktail. Now, mixologists can carve a customized, delicious liquid journey that takes the unexpected guest through, for instance, memories involving the first time they ever had a particular piece of candy.
But not every cocktail out there can be kosher. In my experience as a mixologist and a Jew, I made two major discoveries about kashrut and its relation to mixology and the beverage crafting world. The first has to do with how we define and apply the concept of kosher in everyday life. The second one refers to how the actual application of kosher concepts and principles are already being used in bars and restaurants all over the country.
Most people have had a kosher cocktail without realizing it. How is this possible, you ask? Well, let’s take a look at what makes a cocktail kosher. Sure, you need to use alcohol that has been “Star-K approved” or has a kosher designation to it, and you also need to be careful which liqueurs—sweeteners like triple sec and vermouth, you use, since the majority are not kosher.
As Jews, we know that tradition tells us God intended us to procure the first fruits of our harvest for Him as a way to give thanks and show appreciation for giving us the Promised Land. If we look at kosher in this way, it no longer holds the one-dimensional perception of food and beverage consumption and preparation laws, but a way of living and respecting the land and fruits and harvests that bear from them. If we treat our cocktail ingredients in the same fashion God commanded us to do all those year ago, each of us can enjoy the finest and freshest fruits of the harvest, too. Along these lines, we can now look at cocktails and the emerging sustainability trend and find a lot of common ground.
For instance, mixologists that tend to use handcrafted distilleries for liquor and local, as well as tap sustainable farm resources and carefully select ingredients for their drinks can create an experience unlike any other. Furthermore, many mixologists are taking this idea to the next level by employing sustainable products like herbs and fresh produce. When I see the similarities between kosher and sustainability, how applicable it is to nearly any well-organized bar or restaurant, I see a growing potential for kosher cocktails to become more widely accepted amongst the masses. As long as the bar has the proper ingredients and the bartender or mixologist has the knowledge, a kosher cocktail will not be far behind.
So the next time you attend an establishment that has an acclaimed bar program, or if you’re in the mood to whip up your own at home, always know that the taste of a kosher cocktail is within your reach. Here are two recipes to get your started. Keep raising those glasses!
The Kosher Kosmopolitan
Those that like fruity cocktails will enjoy the kosher approach to this classy and classic cocktail, called the Cosmopolitan. Can we make it kosher and add a little Jewish twist? You bet! Check out the ingredients...you know pomegranate is considered to be the fruit Eve bit from the Tree of Knowledge?
1 ¼ oz Absolut or SKYY Citrus/Lemon vodka (certified kosher)
¾ oz Leroux (kosher) triple sec
½ to ⅓ oz fresh squeezed lime juice
¼ oz fresh Pomegranate juice (POM Wonderful is kosher!)
Lemon Twist (garnish)
Pomegranate seeds (optional – for garnish)
Place all ingredients (except for seeds) into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously for a few seconds until well chilled. Drop pomegranate seeds into the bottom of the martini glass. Strain (lime and pomegranate juice pulp), garnish and serve.
A fried, jelly filled doughnut (symbolic of the holiday’s oily theme), topped with powdered sugar, was the inspiration for this Chanukah cocktail. Its name comes from the Hebrew word for “sponge” because of the treat’s spongy texture. This was my first crack at kosher cocktail creation, way back when I was a rookie bartender! This was conceived to be a delicate and well balanced dessert cocktail that reminded me of the sweet memories of Hannukah. All the ingredients can be made kosher or are already certified kosher, and yes, Frangelico—a hazelnut liqueur—is permitted!
1 oz SKYY Infusions Raspberry Vodka
1 oz SKYY Infusions Grape Vodka
¾ oz Chamboard
½ oz simple syrup
1 oz heavy cream (can substitute 1%; skim or soy not recommended)
Splash of fresh cranberry juice
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
4-6 drops Frangelico
Pinch of nutmeg
Add ingredients to shaker half filled with ice. Shake vigorously and continuously for 30 seconds, or until shaker is extremely cold. Rim cocktail glass with powdered sugar. Pour, float Frangelico on top, and garnish with pinch of nutmeg.