The Artisan’s Touch
Thu, 03/01/2012
Special To The Jewish Week

When it comes to imbibing on Passover, wine is, of course, going to be the primary beverage. Not only do we drink four glasses of wine at each seder, but by the time the festival is over we’ll have six other yom tov meals, with Kiddush (and wine). That’s a lot of wine.

Thankfully, though, there are a growing number of quality kosher-for-Passover spirits that can add a bit of excitement to the holiday table. While once the phrase “kosher le’Pesach spirits” would invoke memories of bad, mass-produced, sugar-cane gin and vodka, these days there are a growing number of quality kosher-for-Passover spirits on the market. Excitingly, some of them are coming from America’s best-known small-scale, artisanal distilleries.

Last year, in this space, we reviewed Distillery 209’s Kosher for Passover Gin, which remains an excellent choice for making cocktails during the holiday. Made at Leslie Rudd’s Distillery 209, located on the San Francisco waterfront, this smooth and supple artisanal gin has a nose of juniper and citrus, with a whiff of spice. Look for flavors of juniper, dried orange peel and coriander seed on the palate, with a nice hint of allspice on the finish.

Score B+ ($37.99 for a 750-ml bottle. Available at 67 Wines and Liquors, 179 Columbus Ave., Manhattan, [212] 724-6767)

More recently, Clear Creek Distillery, one of America’s best-known artisanals, has started to produce two of its eaux de vie under kosher-for-Passover supervision. “Many of our best customers are in New York,” says Clear Creek’s founder and master distiller, Steve McCarthy, “and have been asking us for years to make a kosher [for Passover] product.”

Clear Creek’s Kirschwasser is a clear spirit made from cherries grown in Oregon and Washington State. With a rich, almost creamy mouth-feel, and a smooth finish, this just-off-dry eau de vie has flavors and aromas of cherries and toasted almonds, with notes of pistachios and vanilla. This kirschwasser would be equally good as either a digestif or as a cocktail ingredient.

Score B+ ($44.95 for a 750 ml bottle. Available at Skyview Wines and Liquors, 5681 Riverdale Ave., Riverdale, [718] 601-8222)

Clear Creek’s Slivovitz Blue Plum Brandy is distilled from a simple fermentation of Italian Blue plums that were grown in Oregon. Both the flavor and aroma of this smooth, crystal-clear spirit are redolent of fresh, ripe plums. While dry on the palate, this delightful eau de vie has a nice, lingering sweetness on the finish.  Although not readily suited for cocktails, this Slivovitz would make an excellent digestif, perhaps served with a bowl of roasted nuts.

Score B/B+ ($42.95 for a 750 ml bottle, $28.00 for a 375 ml bottle.Available at Skyview Wines and Liquors, Riverdale Ave., Riverdale, [718] 601-8222)

While Passover’s dietary requirements are by their very nature restrictive, the addition of luxury goods, such as a bottle or two of quality spirits, to the menu can make restrictions seem less severe. So when you head out to buy wine for Passover, think about picking up some artisan-made kosher-for-Passover spirits.

Cocktails:

Cocktails are an easy addition to the Passover menu. In addition to spirits all you need is a cocktail shaker, measuring spoons, juice, sweeteners and ice. Below are two easy, Passover-friendly recipes for cocktails, either of which should add a nice bit of zing to your celebrations.   

The Clover Club Cocktail

This gin-based cocktail was named for — and first severed to — the Clover Club, a late 19th-century organization of Philadelphia society rakes that was somewhat similar in nature to New York’s Algonquin Round Table.

¼ cup 209 Gin
2 tbsp.  freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp. Kedem Raspberry Syrup
1 egg white

Place all of the ingredients, with ice, into a cocktail shaker, and shake well for at least a minute. Strain into a chilled martini glass.

Those who are concerned about the raw egg white in the Clover Club Cocktail may omit it from the recipe. However, the egg white helps produce a rich velvety texture, and foamy mousse, that will be lost if omitted.

The Eton Blazer

While this delightful cocktail was most likely invented in England during the 1910s or 1920s, its origins apparently are in no way connected to that venerable educational institution, Eton College.

3 tbsp. 209 Gin
1 tbsp. Clear Creek Kirschwasser
1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp. Superfine Sugar
Seltzer or club soda

Place the gin, kirschwasser, juice and sugar into a cocktail shaker, with ice, and shake well for at least a minute. Strain into an ice filled tumbler, fill with seltzer or club soda, and stir briefly. 

Please note:  Spirits are scored on an ‘A’-‘F’ scale where ‘A’ is excellent, ‘B’ is good, ‘C’ is flawed, ‘D’ is very flawed, and ‘F’ is undrinkable. Prices listed reflect the price at the retailer mentioned.✦

To see additional Top Kosher wine lists and great wine articles, just click here.