Nisan: Barley There

Nisan is the barley month (Exodus 9:31).

Look, I know the drink for Nisan ought to be something you can serve at the seder, or something that gets you through preparing for the seder*, but I feel like we’ve nailed drinking at Pesach around these parts. And anyway, half of Nisan is about cleaning out your pantry, finding ways to use up and drink up and do gd-knows-what with the randomest things.

Also, I really like barley water,** as I first discovered on this blog.

I mean, really this is fancy lemonade, but I always make fancy lemonade for the seder, with simmering water from the lemons in Ottolenghi’s salad. (In Philadelphia we use maple syrup as a sweetener, because there’s always a lot of it, but here in Chicago vacation honey will do.) If you don’t see Nisan as a reason for drinking up your whiskey and using the last bits of the liqueurs…well, you’re reading the wrong blog. And, ultimately, this drink has the first hints of spring, just like Nisan does. Sometimes, when it doesn’t snow on the seder.

If you’ve made it to barley month***, you have a chance of making it out of Egypt. You’re probably living on fumes, barely able to see beyond the walls of water guiding you somewhere else. I don’t know where that is, either, but I’ve got to hope it’s better. Actual, literal, plague, y’all. It’s time to start thinking about liberation, or at least libation.

Recipe: Barley There: Chill a recipe of barley water made with crystalized ginger. Shake 4-6 ounces of barley water with ice, 1.5 oz wheat whiskey, 0.5 oz jasmine liqueur (or other floral liqueur) and strain into a froufrou tall-ish glass of your choosing. Add 3-5 drops floral bitters and a splash of citrus; garnish with a lemon wheel.

*Y’all, there’s Shabbat and then the Seder. HOW DOES THAT EVEN WORK? Not that I’ll be finding out, since my unvaccinated self can’t get on a plane to Philadelphia. And…that’s out of scope for this blog, isn’t it.

**Don’t discard the barley, though. It’s also quite delicious, especially when you add a bit of chopped crystalized ginger to the simmer.

***I can’t decide if this is tacky. Raise a glass to all our beloved who didn’t make it to Nisan this year, and to those who might not make it out.

Adar: Mishe-Mishe-Mishegoss

I don’t think I knew the Adar Song before I found Hyde Park, and I definitely thought Our Cantor* was singing “Mishegoss Adar” for years afterward**. It turns out the real words are “Mishenichnas Adar,” but honestly, was I wrong?

Adar is the month when I bought silver leggings and a wild boar hat (not in the same Adar), just because I could justify them as a Purim costume. We give ourselves over to baking cookies and not thinking about that holiday, not yet, and it snows literally every f*cking day until you have an actual ice garage around your street-parked car***. Adar is about incongruity, and not just because it’s that point in the winter when your only choice is to give in to the absurd.

Let’s fast-forward to Purim, shall we? Our world is about to go to hell, and who is it that perhaps was born for a time such as this (Esther 4:14)? A wide-eyed little nymphet whose custodial uncle has dropped her in the next best thing to a harem, world turned backwards and upside down. And yet she’s the one who changes the course of history, the guest of honor at a party every year. Let’s drink to the incongruities of peaches and licorice, to situations so strange they never should work out. Let’s take a little bit of bitter in our sweet, and let’s make it mostly frozen even though it might not break freezing for two more weeks. It’s a whole lot of mishegoss, but what Adar teaches us is that silliness makes us strong.

Recipe: Mishe-Mishe-Mishegoss Pull out the blender, but if it’s a Me Party you might also pull out the smoothie cup. Add 1/2c. frozen vanilla kefir (yogurt will do), 1/4 frozen peach^, 2oz. peach nectar, 1.5oz ouzo^^, and .5oz peach schnapps^^ and blend until completely smooth^^^. You could pour into a fancy party glass, or you can drink out of the blender cup, but add 2 dashes bitters before you do. Now, go out and save the world (preferably while wearing spangles).

*In case you’ve been here awhile, a reminder “Our Cantor” is not the same ribald personage as “The Cantor” of the early entries in this blog. Ah well.

**In my defense, I have a minor hearing loss. Never mind that I didn’t, back then.

***That’s only this year, maybe.

^Yes, that’s a nectarine in the picture. It’s Adar, I’m grateful to have any produce around at all.

^^Arak would probably work, if you still need to relive your gap year.

^^^Or whatever in your pantry approximates that. My college self is so sad right now.

^^^^It’s like a grogger than makes you drinks! I suddenly have an inspiration for the Zoom Megillah.

Shevat: What Tree Would You Be?

The Greeks used to have a Tu B’Shvat party that was the stuff of legend (it doesn’t take much, down here). The rules were simple–you had to bring a fruit. The trick was to look at the crates on the floor at Hyde Park Produce; that’s where you’d find the lychees and the dragonfruit and the coconut that turned into the world’s best party game*. We’d make almond scented drinks and admire year’s progress on the etrog trees** and…actually, that was more or less it. It’s a lame holiday that basically always occurs on a school night, but its only competition in the month is Sisterhood Shabbat, which can turn into a riot but we’ve already got a drink for that one.

Shevat is first named in the Book of Zechariah, which is both about the return from exile (yes please) and apparently considered to be apocalyptic literature (well, really, what’s one more apocalypse these days?)***. Not a bad encapsulation of this moment, really, but what I really wanted was a photoshoot with my avocado tree, so I kept with the New Year of the Trees conceit. Actually I committed to it when I learned that tonic is make from the bark of the FeverTree (but Fever Tree brand tonic seems not to carry a hechsher in the US, so sorry about that). To honor the apocalypse, I used a shot of my experimental etrogcello (not from the aforementioned trees, alas); lemons grow on trees, too, so a blend of lemoncello and vodka would do in a pinch. A sprig of rosemary brought to mind pine trees; and maybe elderberries grow on shrubs and maybe they grow on trees, but elderflower syrup mellowed this thing right out. Then top it off with that fever-ridden soda, to make it all a wild ride (the decorative clementina slice fell off the glass each time I tried to get a bubbly photo.

I don’t know what to wish you for this month. But if we make it through this one, it’s time to get happy. We might as well start building up our strength.

Recipe: A Tree For Our Times: Shake 1 shot etrogcello (lemoncello would do, adjust sweet as needed) with an ounce of lemon juice, a spring of rosemary (what, mine was cut in the shape of a tree when I bought it!) and 0.5 oz of elderflower syrup. Strain into a glass and top with tonic water; garnish with more rosemary and citrus.

*How many overeducated Jews does it take to open a coconut? Great question, as we never figured it out. We drilled holes^ into the coconut, used a funnel to pour in the rest of the ingredients, shook, and then strained out our themed drink. Eventually we let the Local Teenager have at it with a hammer.
**The ones that had survived the year, which is probably also commentary.
***Future me, are you now wondering “which apocalypse was it then?”

^As in power tools. Don’t worry, the Safety Engineer was blitzed when she tried this.

Tevet: Life of the Party

Rosh Chodesh Tevet always falls during Hanukkah and it always (almost, I think) falls in December, clearly making it the prime month for a party* drink. I’m firmly convinced that gin-and-tonikkah is the perfect drink for Hanukkah**, but there are eight whole nights plus all these other occasions for merriment*** that tend to land in Tevet. We need something equally classy, but also evocative of latkes…we need olive oil, kids.

Did you know there’s an alcohol-infusion technique called “fat-washing?” (I do not make this shit up.) Is there anything more Tevet than literally being coated in a layer of oil, unless it’s gin with a very slightly oily mouthfeel and the flavors of potato pancakes, but without the desperate fried stench clinging to your coat? If there was ever a Tevet that called for drinks that were trying just a little too hard to spark joy, it’s this one; if you’ve got garlic-and-onion breath at your party of one, it’s not like you’re losing out on any special chances.

Next year in Tijuana-ikkah, y’all.

Recipe: Life of the Party: In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine 1/2 c. gin (or potato vodka would be thematic), 1T. flavorful olive oil, 1 sprig rosemary, 2 crushed sage leaves, 1/2 clove garlic (cut into chunks), and a few grinds of black pepper). Shake well and let sit overnight. In the morning, pop into the freezer for at least 12 hours; when ready to use, strain to remove the big chunks of solidified oil****; strain again through cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Fill a glass with ice and add 5 parts gin with 1 part vermouth (sorry, Nuke) and a dash of salt; depending on how you like your parties, either shake it up or stir the pot…er, glass…until the liquid is very cold. Strain into a martini or coupe (or whatever) glass garnished with onion, rosemary, and a few sage leaves. Sip while donned in your gay apparel (or your stained hoodie and sweats) and contemplating your (electric rainbow-bulb) menorah.

*Mmmmm. Parties. Remember those? The careful planning and days of organization, and the late nights of cleanup conversation? Sigh. Oh, I guess the part where you’re surrounded by your friends for hours is nice, too.
**To the point where I finally fulfilled my dream of flitting about the neighborhood, delivering gin and tonikkahs just in time for Shabbat. And it was absolutely as marvelous as I’d always imagined.
***The Other New Year, Annual Condo Board Meeting^, Movie and Chinese Food Day, 10th of Tevet^^, After-Hours Forced Gaiety with Colleagues^, End of Semester Middle School Orchestra Concert^^, Random Afternoon You Take Off Work to Avoid Lost PTO,…
****So what if I saved this in a little jar to use for gin-infused frying later in the week? It’s not like anyone’s entering my house until June.
^Not actually joyful and festive but does call for drinking
^^Not actually joyful or festive AND they don’t let you drink. 0 stars.

Kislev: Light it Up

I hope y’all spent a little time replacing batteries* this weekend, because it’s Jewish Fire Safety Month. And while the tradition of servicing the fire extinguisher before attempting to burn down the front windows hasn’t quite caught on** (seriously, the world’s most lame-ass form of gambling sticks around for millenia, but a people known for neuroticism can’t get a grip on basic safety?), neither have any canonical Hanukkah drinks.

(I mean, we tried, and we’re still the #1 search on google for “Hanukkah Drinks.”)

So let’s think about Kislev. It’s suddenly winter, and we’re about to spend a week indulging our inner pyromaniacs. This year, we need something we can improvise from the pantry, because who knows if we’ll actually be allowed to go grocery shopping on any given day? We can give in to nostalgia, if your college campfire drinks were anything like mine. We need something warm, that burns just enough to feel good. Bring it on, light it up, try not to burn it down.

Recipe: Light It Up: Use enough of your favorite hot chocolate mix to combine with one cup of boiling water (or, actually, use the sort of shitty one you have jammed in the corner of the tea cupboard, or make the blergh homemade one with powdered milk). Once completely mixed, stir in one generous shot coffee liqueur and a scant ounce of cinnamon liqueur. Top with the last of summer’s sprinkles to make it festive; you should probably float a coin of gelt on top but none has made it to the neighborhood yet.^ Serve with latkes, or sufganyot, or (in this house) tot-chos with chili and queso^^.

*And now that link is preserved for posterity, Nuke. You’re welcome.
**PSA: seriously, please remember that you really are inexperienced with the deep fryer and that a menorah is a open flame. Because while HaShem your protector may have given you the smoke detector***, they also gave you common sense.
***It’s never leaving your head. Deal with it, and sing it at Hanukkah parties when we can have those again.
^Less than 4 weeks until Hanukkah and no gelt in the neighborhood?!?! What is wrong with the world…oh, right. THAT.
^^Yep. I’m a genius and you’re welcome.

Marcheshvan

It’s Cheshvan, right? “Lonely Cheshvan,” even before anyone had ever thought of a pandemic and it signaled the beginning of lonely season. “Bitter Cheshvan,” as though anyone in the Kiddush Club needed an excuse to indulge in bitterness.

It’s hot, for the cold nights that are suddenly dark at the end of the workday and suddenly right on top of us. There are bitter cranberries, to mark the season and also to clean out the freezer, and a little bit of sweet syrup because…well actually because I needed to clean out the dregs of sno-cone syrup from the summer, but let’s pretend it represents hope or something. There’s whiskey from Pennsylvania and bitters from Colorado, because alcohol is the 48th best thing to being there. It pairs well with virtual board meetings because…did I mention bitter?

Recipe: Marcheshvan: For each drink, bring 1.5 c water, 1/2 c. cranberries, and 1t-2T ginger or fruit-ginger syrup^ to a boil (add cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, or the like if you’re hoping for a spicy second month…I might have tossed in some star anise). When this comes to a boil, add one chai or orange-spice tea bag per drink, and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove hard spices and tea bags. If you feel like cleaning pink splash from literally everywhere your kitchen, use a hand blender to zshush the cranberry-tea mixture (hey, it’s Cheshvan, what else do you have to do?). Otherwise, use your muddler to smash the crap out of the cranberries*. Strain this mixture into a mug that contains 1/2 oz amaro** or other bitter liqueur and 1 oz whiskey***. Finish with bitters (I chose rose-orange because…um…honestly it was the first one in the box and I was over making decisions for the day. Because Cheshvan.) . Drink broodily, in dim light or in front of a Zoom screen.

^Range intentional, in case any of your whacko optimists are still reading.

*I feel better now!

**This one’s made in Chicago!

***This whiskey is probably too nice for hot toddies, but I seem to only have good stuff in the house.

Sweet World on Fire

Right. It’s Elul. (I think.)

Did summer happen? Has it been summer forever? Is this all some extended Purim insanity? How is it Rosh Hashanah without the drama of High Holiday ticket calligraphy and the annual apple picking trip?

But somehow it’s time to raise a glass to what the new year will bring, which is impossible to do without the chaos of the year before stirring up your glass. Mind. I meant mind. Apples. Chaos. Honey, A world on fire, a Book being written and sealed with no clear plot in sight, or maybe far too many plots.

Drink to the madness and the chaos, and the certainty of the calendar coming around again beneath it all. It’s a lot of potchke, but this year you have all of the time and none of it. It adapts to your taste and your kitchen and whatever the Instacart forgot. (Except for apples. I think the apples are non-negotiable.) The name sounds delicious, but also like something your gramma would have said when she was pissed. It’s 5781. Buckle up.

Recipe: Sweet World on Fire:  

Honey-roasted apple syrup: Preheat oven to 400. Peel 1 pound of apples and cut in half. In a small bowl, mix 2T honey, 1T balsamic vinegar, cinnamon, and the spice for your year–nutmeg? cardamom? chipotle? (I chose chipotle). Brush the mixture on the apples and bake until brown and very soft (20-35 minutes, depending on the size and variety of apple).

When the apples have cooled, remove seeds. Blend roasted apple flesh with 1/4c. apple juice and 1 tsp vanilla until you have a thick syrup. It will probably have chunks and lumps (so will your year).

For each drink, shake the syrup with ice, 1/2 T honey (or more, if you still believe in a sweet new year) and one shot of liquor–vodka or pisco will work; whiskey is likely ideal; we here at Tippling Through The Torah believe that tequila is the only answer (mescal would be great, too). Try a shot of cinnamon or chai tea if you’d prefer not to tipple. Strain into a rock glass, and then top off with sparkling apple juice, moscato, or–again, this is absolutely most fitting–some CBD infused cider.

Because there is still beauty in the world, garnish like mad, slices of apple and sprigs of rosemary at minimum. Sprinkle with a bit more of that optional choice you chose for your apple-roasting glaze. Sip while you stare at a Zoom, or stare out the window, or sit not-quite-legally on the shoreline gazing at The Lake. (Probably don’t sip at the socially distanced outdoor minyan, as that will require removing your mask.)

Shanah Tovah.

Moth Rodfei Hour, Shavuot Special Edition: Revelation

Adapted from The Pink Elephant, a tequila and strawberry frozen drink and also the elephant in the room, when someone realizes you haven’t always been Jewish but doesn’t quite know how to ask what and when and why. It’s a little bit from everywhere and a whole lot of come-as-you-are-and-we’ll-figure-it-out. Conversion, in a glass.

  1. It’s Shavuot, so you need ice cream of some sort. You’re not sure why, but the other option is boozy cheesecake shots and you mastered that four years ago. (With your great-aunt’s recipe from Christmas Eve, no less.) 
  2. It turns out your rabbi doesn’t know why about the ice cream, either, but he offers to discuss the technicalities of the Cuisinart freezer anytime*. 
  3. You’re having trouble keeping up with your own kefir** production, so you’ve been making frozen raspberry kefir. You scoop ¾ c. of that into the high-powered blender you’re still not sure why you bought, two Pesachs ago. 
  4. Any frozen berry yogurt would be great, though. Strawberry ice cream would work but be super sweet, not unlike the drinks you make for Sisterhood Shabbat. 
  5. Tequila is canon here, and tequila is delightful and also tequila-shame is one of your signature Torah-drinking jokes. Also your best shul-drinking buddy makes really great margaritas, and you’re not used to her not being here for Shavuot.
  6. But you also have the almost-full bottle of slivovitz she left at your place when she moved to Pittsburgh. Slivovitz makes anything Jewish, it’s like the mikveh of mixology. A tablespoon of each, then. They splash as you pour them into the blender. Probably you went a little overboard. 
  7. You could probably use pisco in place of the slivovitz (maybe you can convince people that pisco is the Sephardi version?)
  8. Add a splash of lime, because tequila. 
  9. Homemade kefir is pretty tart, and raspberries are even more so. Plus you became Jewish in Iowa, so you need a scant tablespoon of corn syrup. 
  10. (You’ve learned recently that corn syrup is a secret weapon in home ice cream making. Your origins never make sense, until suddenly they’re exactly who you’re supposed to be.) 
  11. Add a little milk, no more than a tablespoon. 
  12. Unless it’s really cold in your kitchen, or your ice cream is really frozen, add an ice cube or two. 
  13. Whir the crap out of the thing, just now realizing it’s the wrong container (have you ever used those groovy smoothie cups that came with the blender?) and the jar of your blender is way too big for just one drink. The ice cube rattles around, intimidated and unlike everything else in there, but soon settles into a smooth whir. 
  14. The blender is supposed to pulverize all of those raspberry seeds but some of them remain***. Seeds of knowledge? The little ways you’ll never quite assimilate? Enh, fiber, it’s good for you, bubeleh. .
  15. Add a little more milk if it’s too thick. Pour it into a mason jar and freeze a bit if it’s too thin (if you’d used the smoothie cups, you could have avoided the mason jar part. If you’d spent summers at Ramah, would you get stuff like this right on the first try?) 
  16. Pour into a glass, with a straw. Probably you could top this with whipped cream for the clouds on Sinai that Moses came down through (you Googled that part).  Definitely you could make a ribald joke about Boaz, Ruth, Naomi and whipped cream. 
  17. You could maybe have rimmed the glass with salt and something minty green (agriculture!) or smoky/spicy (see ribald joke above). Or the metallic sparkle sugar that the Junior Kiddush Club snitches behind your back (or at least that’s what you let them think). 
  18. Drink while reading the book of Ruth, and wonder if she understood just how she got to where she was, and if she could even imagine being anywhere else.

Recipe: Revelation: In a blender, combine ¾ c. berry frozen yogurt, 1T. Tequila, 1T. Slivovitz (or other clear brandy, like pisco), dash lime juice, and a scant 1 T. corn syrup. Blend until smooth; add 1-2 ice cubes and/or 1T. milk until desired consistency is achieved (you can also freeze the mixture for ~30 minutes after blending). Pour into a glass and serve with a straw. (Recipe makes one ~1c. milkshake)

 

*Yeah, my rabbi is cooler than yours.

**Want kefir grains? Hit me up!

***Blueberries would probably assimilate with no problems whatsoever. If your Judaism was a berry, which berry would it be?

****Resisted the urge to craft a “my milkshake brings all the Jews to the yard and their dvar, is better than yours…” parody. You’re welcome.

Tippling Through the Torah on Tour

Ventured Up North (still not sure if it’s safe up there) to spread tipsy Torah. This happened–who knew Liquid Smoke was so central to Rosh Hodesh?

(Pittsburgh had its second Tippling Through the Torah event this week–and the first since the Soror’s bat mitzvah. I’ll see if I can get some evidence….)

 

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