Passover Cocktails and Spirits

How to imbibe without the sacrifice


For many, Passover is the ultimate exercise in patience.

Not only are observant Jews required to give up anything with flour, most grains and leavening for a whole eight days, but for two nights we sit through a long series of readings, songs and rituals before we can even eat the holiday meal, which is followed by more of the same. As a relative once exclaimed, it seems like an awful lot of trouble just to say, “They tried to kill us. We survived. Let’s eat!”

Finding foods that are Kosher for Passover during this eight day stretch is challenging enough. If you enjoy spirits and cocktails, you also have to consider that many are verboten because they are distilled from grains or come in contact with un-kosher barrels during aging. This means, gasp!, no whiskey or bitters. If you’re like me, this is especially tough. Even certifiably kosher spirits aren’t allowed for Passover because of their base makeup.
Related Imagery
Maror (cred. "Sipping Seder")
Red Sea Sour
There are certain spirits that may not be labeled as kosher, but do fit within the Pesach guidelines. These include un-aged fruit brandies, un-aged agave (like blanco or silver tequila or joven mezcal, just be sure there was no barrel aging at all) and vodka or gin, as long as it’s made entirely from potatoes or fruit.

Luckily, there are a few Pesach-approved spirits for that ultimate guarantee. Be sure to check labels for the “Kosher for Passover” statement as some of these brands offer more than one version of the same product. Finding these may take a little legwork, so check with the producer’s sites or your local retailer for availability. Only Kosher Wine also offers many of them.

Here are a few Kosher for Passover tipplers to check out:

- San Francisco’s Distillery No. 209 produces a gin and just unveiled a vodka
-Casa Vieja tequila has an añejo version your bubbe would approve of
-Cognac Louis Royer VSOP
-Binyamina makes several fruit cordials such as limoncello, triple sec and wishniak (cherry)
-Several brands of Slivovitz (plum brandy) such as Mosby, Rudolf Jelínek, Maraska and Queen Esther

What do we do with these now that we are free of smoting for drinking them? We have some fun and delicious ideas. A couple require a bit more work than usual, but think of how impressed your guests will be when you tell them the trouble you went through. L’Chaim!

Red Sea Sour

This involves making a syrup reduction out of Manischewitz or other sweet kosher wine. It’s worth it. Use extra as a sauce with some raspberries for your flourless chocolate cake!

2 oz Distillery No. 209 gin (or other suitable dry gin)
¾ oz Manischewitz syrup (recipe follows)
¾ oz fresh lemon juice
lemon zest for garnish (optional)

Shake all ingredients except garnish with ice well to combine. Strain into chilled coupe or cocktail glass. Garnish if desired, you’ve worked so hard already.

Manischewitz Syrup

1 cup Manischewitz concord grape (or similar sweet kosher red wine)
¼ cup sugar

Heat the ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves and mixture develops syrupy consistency. Let cool. This can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week.


The Sipping Seder is a clever reinterpretation of the Seder plate as cocktails, conceived by Rob Corwin and Danny Jacobs. This adaptation of their recipe indicates one of the two bitter herbs on the Seder plate, which in many households is represented by horseradish. Think of this as a “borscht martini.” If using it, be sure to add the red beet stick only as you’re serving since it starts to add color right away.

3 oz Distillery No. 209 vodka (or potato or fruit-based vodka)
1 inch piece raw golden beet, peeled and chopped
1 quarter-sized slice fresh horseradish, peeled (or tsp jarred, grated white horseradish)
stick of fresh, peeled red beet for garnish (optional)

Muddle the golden beet and horseradish in the bottom of a shaker. Add the vodka and ice. Shake. Pour over a fine mesh strainer into a chilled cocktail or coupe glass. Garnish with the red beet if desired.

Charoset Shlappe

Shlappe is the Yiddish derivation of the word that eventually morphed into the vernacular “jalopy.” See? For you, a little education. So this recipe is, you guessed it, a kosher riff on the Sidecar with the spiced apple flavors of the charoset from the Seder plate.

2 oz Cognac Louis Royer VSOP
1 ½ oz apple juice (or to booze it up, 1 oz apple brandy)
½ oz lemon juice
¼ - ½ oz honey (depending on desired level of sweetness)
cinnamon stick

Add all ingredients except the cinnamon to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until well combined. Strain into chilled coupe or cocktail glass. Finish by grating a bit of the cinnamon over the drink using a microplane or very fine grater (this is better than just dumping powdered cinnamon over the top, which tends to clump. Who wants clumpy cinnamon?)

The Simple Son Rises

An ode to that poor, misunderstood member of the Four Sons of the Haggadah (and my favorite illustration in my family’s 1950s text). This takes the Tequila Sunrise cocktail and not only makes it drinkable for the holiday, but more drinkable in general.

2 oz Casa Vieja blanco tequila (or another blanco or silver)
¾ oz Binyamina triple sec
¾ oz fresh orange juice
½ oz fresh lemon juice
*¼ - ½  oz simple syrup (optional, for added sweetness. Some prefer more tart.)
couple barspoons of Manischewitz syrup or sugar-based grenadine, such as Employees Only

Shake all ingredients with ice except the syrup and/or grenadine to combine. Strain into a lowball glass half-filled with ice. Float the syrup or grenadine over the top, don’t stir. Serve.

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