Seder Flavors Morph Into Passover Cocktails

on 01/04/12 at 9:40 am

Booze News

Proust had madeleines. Rob Corwin and Danny Jacobs had charoset. Also, vodka.

When the two discovered a New Zealand manuka honey vodka during a trip to Beijing in 2008, it had a familiar warmth. When they got home, they found more and began tinkering, adding some sweet vermouth.

That’s when charoset, the sweet mix of fruit and nuts that’s a Passover staple, came in.

“For some reason, it gave me that sense memory of charoset, that strong honey flavor,” Jacobs recalls, and the tipplers’ version of a seder staple was born. So Corwin and his husband did what any nice Jewish guys would do next.

“We were sitting around saying, ‘What if we re-created the whole Passover seder plate as cocktails?’ ”

Hence Sipping Seder (sippingseder.com), which they unveiled last year. Because the two had another tradition – Perbacco’s annual Passover dinner from chef Staffan Terje and author Joyce Goldstein – they dropped a line to Perbacco owner Umberto Gibin. Soon their concoctions interpreting the ceremonial Passover plate were offered as holiday specials at the Financial District restaurant.

“I thought they were very clever,” Gibin says. “It’s a good way of adding to the experience.”

Lest some celebrants worry about the irreverence of commemorating the exodus with a cocktail shaker in hand, remember the seder itself contains four glasses of wine. Yet the two were so concerned about hitting an off note that they consulted Jacobs’ cousin, Irwin Keller, a para-rabbi and comedian, who gave a hearty nod.

It’s worth remembering that Passover has had many interpretations over the centuries. Its ritual text, the haggadah, has been rewritten countless times to accommodate different localities and traditions.

“Passover in particular is one of the most fluid celebrations,” says Stephen S. Pearce, senior rabbi of Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco. “This is a holiday that encourages creativity. I would encourage them to do it – but also have a designated driver.”

While Jacobs and Corwin clearly love their cocktails, bartending is an avocation – although their large collection of vintage stemware hints at a sort of pro-am status. By day, they’re both graphic designers.

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