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The Holiday Spirit

April 19, 2019

The weekend is almost here, and it’s a big one. We’ve got Passover starting tonight, and that’s here all week. Then Easter is on Sunday, and I understand that a few people might be going out for brunch? For many people, brunch seems to be just another reason to drink during the day. But I’m not judging. During the Passover seder, we are instructed to drink four cups of wine. Spring festivals are a time for festive drinking!

Of course, one of the challenging things about drinking during Passover is that we’re supposed to avoid the five chametz grains: wheat, barely, oats, rye, and spelt.

People often ask, but isn’t matzoh made from wheat? And it is. However, it’s made under strict supervision, under a set of explicit guidelines to make sure when the grain is added to water it doesn’t have a chance to rise. Technically, the prohibition is against leavened bread. You can read the text here. All of rules that have been created over the centuries are what we call “fences around the Torah.” These are set up as protections to make sure nobody can even get close to violating the rule at the heart of the matter.

I say this, because next week I’ll be participating in Wednesday Drink Night at Speakeasy 518 and I’m okay with that. My hope is you’ll join me. The fun starts at 6pm with an education session and free tasting. Then two bartenders go head to head at 8pm with a secret ingredient from earlier that evening. You just have to call ahead (518.449.2332) and let them know you plan to attend.

While I absolutely respect and admire those more observant members of the tribe who go all out for Passover, that level of observance just is not for me. Still, I do my best. At home, I’m even going to give up beer and whiskey for the week. I’ve also picked up a few special spirits to help get me through the holiday. While there are plenty that qualify, one is definitely my chosen bottle.

As my home bar has shrunk over the years, I do try to keep it seasonal. There are some spirits that just feel right in the spring and summer, while others are more at home in the fall and winter. Unaged tequila is the former. Smokey whiskey is the later.

Usually I’ll pick up a bottle of tequila in time for Cinco de Mayo, because what’s May 5 without at least a nod to Mexico. This year I bought it early. But this 100% agave spirit isn’t made with one of the five forbidden grains, so it’s on the nice list for next week too. So is mezcal. My sister just returned from a trip to Mexico, and she returned with a bottle of the stuff for me. So that will be in rotation as well.

Do you know what one of the most Passover appropriate drinks is? It’s not booze. Or grape juice.

The answer is Kosher for Passover Coca-Cola. It only comes out once a year, and it’s the American equivalent of Mexican Coke. Made with sucrose instead of HFCS, some people swear it’s truly the original recipe from back before the whole New Coke fiasco. And just last night I picked up one bottle of it from the Price Chopper in Latham for just a buck.

Oddly, Passover stuff is already on clearance even though the holiday hasn’t even begun. Seriously, I have no idea where retailers got the idea that Passover is over before we’ve even sat down for the first seder.

As it just so happens, I’ve also got a bottle of Wray & Nephew overproof rum.

This is not rum for everyone. But in Jamaica, one of the few ways to enjoy the stuff, is mixed with Coke. Maybe with a squeeze of lime. Or with just lime. Although I love it with just coconut water. So that’s what I’m going to do.

The only problem is that the Kosher for Passover Coke comes in two liter bottles, and the rum is so strong that these are pretty short drinks, even at a 4:1 Coke to rum ratio. That’s a lot of drinking before the soda goes flat. Invariably a lot of the soda will end up getting poured down the sink. Two liter bottles are the worst.

Incidentally, I forget what ratio I use, but I think it may be even lower than what I just suggested. At the end of next week, I’ll be able to give you my report. In the meantime, have a great holiday, regardless of what or how you celebrate. And if you’re in the Capital Region, I hope to see you on Wednesday night!

Now it’s time to slice the brisket, skim the fat from the braising liquid, and put out some cultured butter so it’s soft and spreadable in time for tonight’s seder.

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