I'm not Jewish. And my girlfriend is about as much of a secular Jew as it's possible to get -- she loves bacon, and she sometimes asks me questions about Judaism. (Quick! To the Internet!)
But ever since moving to New York, where there are a lot more Jews around than the Southern burgs I came from, I've been fascinated by some aspects of Jewish life, and none more so than the Seder dinner at Passover. I've not been to one -- either I haven't played my cards right or I've been stuck at work -- but I think the ritual is interesting, and I enjoy that it's a celebration open to all.
I was reading up on the traditional ingredients on the Seder plate, and thought that it'd be fun to combine a few of them into a Passover cocktail. I'm not getting nearly as elaborate as the guys at Sipping Seder (really, you should go check that link out; they've come up with really good-sounding cocktails for each element of the Seder meal) or the other restaurateurs or bar owners quoted in this Tablet article, but I did want to see if I could combine the bitter herbs (maror), which symbolize the bitterness and the suffering of the Israelites in Egypt, and the charoset, a sweet paste that symbolizes the mortar that the Israelites used for bricks there, and put them both in a drink together. After all, balance -- of sweetness and bitterness, as well as other flavor profiles like sourness -- is one of the hallmarks of a good cocktail.
The bitter herbs were easy; it's hard to get more bitter or herbal than Fernet Branca, of course, which famously goes off the charts in both of those directions. And for the charoset? There are lots of different recipes and styles, but quoth Wikipedia: "A typical recipe from the Eastern European (or Ashkenazi) tradition would include nuts, apples, cinnamon, and sweet wine — ingredients mentioned by King Solomon in Song of Songs as recalling the attributes of the Jewish people themselves." (As an aside: Really? The Song of Songs, aka the Song of Solomon? The sexiest book in the Bible? Apparently so, as it encodes a charoset recipe in all those sensuous similes. I learned something today.) I thought about using a nut liqueur such as Frangelico or Nocino, but decided to work with what I had on hand: apple brandy, sweet wine, and cinnamon. A bit of tinkering with the proportions, and I arrived at:
Seder Ain't So
- 1 oz. apple brandy
- 3/4 oz. Muscat dessert wine
- 1/2 oz. Fernet Branca
- 1/4 oz. cinnamon syrup
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Some notes on ingredients: For the apple brandy, I used the wonderful Clear Creek 8-year-old Eau de Vie de Pomme, though I think any good Calvados would work just fine. For the wine, I used BV Muscat de Beaulieu, which is inexpensive and not-terribly-complex, but did the job: I was after those dessert-wine notes of sweetness, raisins, and other fruit. I think any Muscat would work equally well, and possibly other dessert wines would fit the bill, though that may lead to the need for adjustments. The cinnamon syrup is available from Trader Tiki, but I used homemade: a 2:1 simple syrup in which I steeped several cinnamon sticks for four hours.
I should note, also, that you're on your own if you drink four cups of this cocktail, as the Passover ceremony dictates with wine. And, more seriously, no claims are made that this is kosher.