I’d just collaborated in pouring whiskey in the Bar Mitzvah Boy’s coffee* when the rabbi stopped at my table. “So I think you should get started with those themed drinks. Simchat Torah. See what you can come up with.”
To be fair, I’d just improvised a Rosh Hashanah drink (“The Sweet New Year,” but you’ll have to wait a year for the recipe), so he knew I was up to the challenge. And, of course, I’ve been campaigning for a shul bar ever since I heard about the one he’d left behind in Georgia. (I am not making this up.)
I tested a few concoctions during the holidays, ending up with a kiddie cocktail that had my four favorite rugrats delaying their piggyback rides in favor of another cup. (Pro-tip: Never carry a child and his juice, unless you’re into those alternate all-natural conditioners.)
There were too many possibilities for the adult drinks. Simchat Torah, I realized, required two cocktails: one celebrating the end, one welcoming the beginning. The beginning was easy, since anything involving an apple and a little snakebite would do. But have you read Vezot HaBerachah? I’m pretty sure the Hipster Chumash*** version is, “Halfhearted praise and exhortations to kick ass.” It’s not super-quotable, and no one will drink “smashed loins” (pro-tip.) (Deut. 33:11, sort of.) But if you go to the very beginning of the parshah, in the Hertz translation at least (don’t judge), Moses reminds us all that G-d’s right hand is “a fiery law.” (Deut. 33:2) Fire I could deal with.
Recipes (this is the only time you’ll get multiples. Except maybe double portions? I haven’t figured out double portions):
Apple and Eve: This had one of my testers screaming, “Omig-d this is SO YUMMY!” Her older brother stepped up to the plate as a junior bartender at the big event; an eight-year-old wielding a cocktail shaker is exactly as wonderful as it sounds.
For each 6 oz. of apple cider, add 1 teaspoon of honey, a few shakes of cinnamon (or some cinnamon sticks), and a few chunks of fresh ginger. Allow to steep in the refrigerator overnight. To serve, shake with ice and chopped apples; pour into a plastic cup (because you’re not an idiot), filling halfway and topping off with club soda. Top with a mint leaf to represent fig leaves (to amuse the grownup teetotalers).
The Apple and the Serpent: Shake 1 oz vodka, 1oz whiskey, a splash of cider, a drizzle of honey, chopped ginger, and chopped apples over ice. Strain into a glass, either over ice or topped off with club soda. Top with either cinnamon or cardamon; a drizzle of additional honey can be nice if you like it sweet. Classy people will also remember to put some chopped apple in the glass as a garnish.
A Fiery Law: Chop a mix of hot peppers (you need some habeneros for the hot floral note, jalapenos are nice for color, finger peppers and Serranos are good). Shake peppers with 2 oz vodka, a squeeze of lime juice, a squirt of honey, and ginger (If your peppers aren’t super hot, add red pepper flakes). Strain into a glass over ice. Offer cayenne, Cajun seasoning, that awesome Trader Joe’s ghost pepper grinder, and other hot toppings for the die-hards, but be warned that a shaker full of these gets spicier by the glass.
*I did not actually pour said whiskey, but I issued the dare, so I suspect there’s Talmudic reason why I’m guilty.
**Said Bar Mitzvah Boy was so proud to recognize the smell of whiskey in his coffee that he showed it to all his favorite adults. Naturally some killjoy took it away before he had a taste.
***More on that next time.