By Gabriel Geller
As over the past few years more wine lovers have been adding wine as a regular companion to their weeknight dinner, the period known as the 9 Days during the Hebrew month of Av have been dubbed “the wineless week” (and change). On Pesach however, there is no shortage of wine of course, but the whisky and bourbon aficionados are deprived of their favorite drink for the entire holiday.
My favorite alternative to whisky is Cognac. No, it is not at all the same thing. Cognac is distilled wine that was aged in oak barrels. It contains no grain at all and therefore there is no obstacle into making it kosher for Pesach. Louis Royer, which my friend Josh London has written about in length in the upcoming issue of DiVine Magazine, is arguably the most prestigious Cognac house producing kosher runs of three of its flagship Cognacs: VS, VSOP, and XO. Admittedly, I have expensive taste. With its rich aromas and notes of dried fruits, caramelized lemon, and walnuts, the XO is easily my favorite.
Having grown up in Switzerland, fruit brandy or eau de vie, also known as schnapps, was always popular in my family. Jelinek makes the excellent Silver Slivovitz, which is distilled from plump, fleshy, and juicy purple plums. The pit of the fruit gives it a unique aroma of fresh almonds and it is best served ice cold, perhaps even over an ice cube or three.
Zachlawi are the masters of all things arak. Made from dates or figs, arak also has luscious flavors of licorice and it is usually pretty sweet. This year Zachlawi came up with a Dry Arak. While the familiar aromas and flavors are there, it is dry and much sharper and could be enjoyed more as an aperitif rather than as a digestif. Also best served well-chilled.
While we are still discussing distilled fruit, I cannot skip the famous Boukha Bokobsa. Many of my childhood friends are from Jewish Tunisian and Moroccan families. In their homes, Boukha is a staple Shabbos drink and since it is also kosher for Pesach there is plenty of it around then, as well. The Bokobsa is known as the gold standard for Boukha, it is the most refined and well-balanced fig brandy, and would accompany well some snacks such as olives and pickles.
I do not usually drink vodka but my wife often uses some for cooking, especially for making salmon gravlax. While I do not drink it neat, I don’t mind a lychee cocktail based on LVOV Beet, a vodka made from distilled beet, very smooth and kosher for Pesach, as well. The Morad Lychee Wine is perfect mixed with the vodka to make that cocktail.
Last but not least, the Sabra Chocolate Orange Liqueur holds a special place in my heart, one of my favorite sweet liqueurs. As a kid, I always remember my father picking up a bottle or two at Ben Gurion airport every time we were coming back from a vacation in Israel. The delightful sweet notes of orange and chocolate make it the best digestif to enjoy with flourless chocolate cake on Pesach. Give it a try and let me know what you think. Wishing you a spirited Pesach!