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If you grew up Jewish or had a lot of Jewish friends as a kid, chances are your first taste of alcohol was Manischewitz. And chances are you liked it, because you were a kid and you didn’t know any better. Drinking the saccharine, syrupy “wine” as an adult can be fun in an ironic, nostalgic way, but like most things in life, this Passover tradition is improved with liquor. Jill Dobias, the bar manager and co-owner of New York City’s Joe & Misses Doe, came up with some great Manischewitz cocktails.
“You can work Manischewitz into classic cocktails by using it in place of sweet vermouth,” Dobias says. She makes a bourbon Manhattan garnished with Manischewitz-soaked cherries. Dobias also likes to use the wine to make a Negroni.
Named for the murderous pharaoh in the Haggadah, this refreshing, colorful gin cocktail is especially potent because it doesn’t use any ice. Dobias shakes gin (one that isn’t too aggressively flavored with juniper) with lemon juice, simple syrup and frozen grapes. She pours the whole concoction into a rocks glass, then tops it with some club soda and a floater of Manischewitz. “It’s really pretty,” she says. “You have this nice, dark purple streaming down into the glass.”
Elijah’s Rum Punch
“Elijah is the prophet said to come in and bless your home on Passover,” says Dobias. “You leave the door open for him and you leave a cup of wine for him. But instead, I decided to make a giant bowl of punch.” Made with red wine, white wine, dark rum and Manischewitz, along with citrus peel, lemon juice and orange slices, the punch is full-bodied but with a tart zip. It’s perfect for a big Passover gathering, or just one very thirsty ghost of a prophet.
1 bottle dry red wine
1 bottle dry white wine
1 bottle Manischewitz
2 cups dark rum
2 cups lemon juice
2 cups simple syrup
1 orange, sliced in rings
Peels of 2 lemons
Soaked cherries or a dollop of mandarin sorbet (optional)
Combine all of the ingredients in a large punch bowl and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Serve chilled or over ice. Garnish with the soaked cherries or a dollop of mandarin sorbet.
Note: Standard Manischewitz isn’t kosher for Passover for many Jews because it contains corn sugar, but Manischewitz makes a special kosher-for-Passover bottling with cane sugar as well.