If we could find just one alternative to Manischewitz this Passover, it would be sufficient.
Rabbi Micah Hyman.
Vodka can be Kosher for Passover under the right circumstances. Who knew? Well, you can trust Rabbi Micah Hyman of Congregation Beth Sholom in San Francisco. Out of the kindness of his heart, and during the busy Passover season, Rabbi Hyman runs us through every booze and mixer imaginable, telling the chosen people what’s ok, and what’s chametz.
Is beer in or out? "Way out. Anything that undergoes a natural leavening process, or that comes anywhere near the five grains—wheat, spelt, barley, rye and oats—is a no. Also out are rice, corn and any beans. So rye and whiskey are no good either."
What about wine? Everybody knows about Manichewitz. Is there any good wine that’s Kosher for Passover? "Well you know what they say: “Two Jews, three opinions.” Everybody has a different rule; but wine, for the most part, is good. If it’s bought before Passover you can drink it, but know how religious your guests are. As far as good, there are some great Israeli wines with tremendous sophistication. One local Napa label is Covenant." [Editor’s Note: According to Jodie Morgan of Covenant Wines, you can buy the label at Wine Impression (3461 California Street) and K & L in San Francisco, at Oakland Kosher in Oakland, at Ledgers in Berkeley, and at various Mollie Stone’s.]
Now what about vodka? "Make sure it’s made from potato. If you’re going to have a martini, remember don’t put any of those little cured onions or olives in it. I don’t know why anyone would eat any of those little onions anyway."
How do you decide on tequila, a spirit that’s not in the Torah? "I’d say no Cuervo. Go for the 100% blue agave tequilas and stick with blanco. You run into sticky territory with reposado and anejo tequilas that are smoked and aged and such. And don’t eat the worm."
As far as gin goes, Distillery 209 makes one that’s Kosher for Passover. Anything else? "First off, if you’re a Jew drinking a gin and tonic, I don’t know what to tell you. But yes, there are some gins that are Kosher for Passover. It’s juniper and cypress, so there you have it."
Ok let’s talk mixers. "No corn, no legumes, stay away from anything with corn syrup. If you’re going to use juice, make it organic and go fresh. It’s very San Francisco. Put something in the juicer. Blood red oranges are great."
What’s the ideal Passover beverage? "Hands down: The Bloody Mary. There’s the spring vegetable, a stalk of celery to represent the rite of spring. It looks like blood, which is retranslated for the plague of blood. It’s sweet, spicy, and it has horseradish in it! Just watch out for those olives. There’s a great article in Tablet about Bloody Marys that you should read."
Anything else? "Yes! Slivovitz. Hit the plum brandy."
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