Looking to accentuate your holiday with something tasty and alcoholic? Drink your way through the holiday with this "Cocktail Menorah," courtesy of The Kiddush Club! This Cocktail Menorah connects to one of Hanukkah Unbound's other tracks -- Ushpizin (guests) (click on the Welcome link above) -- because each drink is themed around an important early founder of Rabbinic Judaism.
The Kiddush Club is a ragtag band of Torah enthusiasts from Hyde Park, Chicago, Illinois, who've found that their creative medium is alcohol (and softer libations, as the occasion warrants). They've been mixing spirits and the spiritual since 5776, when they successfully completed a full cycle of weekly Torah-portion themed drinks, and chronicling each week's recipe at Tippling Through the Torah. This year, they're attempting to distill each week's Haftorah reading into something sippable and delicious.
Every Night (As the Shamash/Helper Candle): Elisha Ben A-Boo-Yah!
"We can totally do a drinks menorah," observed the Nuclear Engineer, "but we'll have to do a red-and-green layered drink, right? I mean, if we're known to be heretics, let's take it all the way." The Local Scholar perked up immediately. "Elisha ben Abuyah! The Talmud calls him "the other" and he's a notorious heretic." Your Hostess snickered. "Elisha ben a-BOO-YAH! That should be our last drink." The Physicist looked up from his research, which for Kiddush Club purposes involves bottles and straws instead of servers (that Ph.D. in fluid dynamics comes in handy sometimes). "If I'm makinga layered shot, it should be one of those tall glasses. Let's use it for the shamash." That's how we do it, Kiddush-Cllub style. Heresy, sweet and sour and boozy, served up front and center every night.
Recipe: Muddle fresh ginger with equal parts sweet and sour mix and cranberry juice (not juice cocktail). Add .5 oz etrog vodka (vodka citron will do) and stir. Pour .5-.7 5oz Midori into the bottom of a tall shot glass; slowly pour over the cranberry mixture so that the drink forms two layers.
1st Night: Shimon Bar Yo-Chai
Recipe: 3/4 c. chai tea, 1-1.5 oz. Jameson, .5 oz crème de cacao, .5oz goldschlager, 1 t honey (or to taste). Garnish with orange or lemon and a sprig of rosemary.
"So the first flavor-obsessed rabbi I can think of is Shimon bar Yochai," began the Talmud Fairy. "He spent years in a cave, eating nothing but carob. Are there any carob liquors?" Your Kiddush Club hostess doesn't know much about the Sages, but she does know the contents of her liquor cabinet. "Maybe creme de cacao would be close enough? And...could you write down his name? Because it sounds like chai spice might work." The T-F sniffed the bottle he was offered, and nodded. "Can I do a hot drink? Shimon Bar Yochai is one of the reasons we have bonfires on Lag b'Omer." Once we tasted his concoction, the answer was a resounding yes. Raise a hot steaming mug of Shimon Bar Yo-Chai to celebrate the first flames of Hanukkah.
2nd Night: The Green Rabbi
"We have to bring in the Nuclear Engineer's favorite rabbi," insisted the Physicist. "Yochanan ben Zakkai." Our Scholar laughed. "Oh yeah! 'If you're holding a sapling and someone tells you, 'the Messiah is coming!', first plant the tree'." "Really?" complained The Founder, "Those are his priorities? Why do we all have that friend whose altruism trumps common sense? I thought Talmud understood practicalities better than that." And with that, Kiddush Club erupted into the argument we'd abandoned at the end of the Democratic primaries--a series of small, concrete improvements (like planting a tree) or the all-consuming work of sweeping reform? Meanwhile, the Nuclear Engineer pulled together a tree-lover's drink; on the second night, lift a glass with rosemary spring to remind you, saplings first.
Recipe: 1 part gin, 1 part midori. Top off with tonic water. Garnish with rosemary and cucumber.
3rd Night: Rabban Gin-liel
"We need purple," declared the Nuclear Engineer, who was actually paying attention to the spreadsheet of ingredients, colors, and rabbis. Your Hostess clapped excitedly as the new bottle of crème de violette was considered. "How do we get fish in there?" wondered The Scholar, alluding to Gamaliel's four types of students, but causing a brief panic at the thought of revisiting the herring martini. In the end, things went swimmingly and we settled on a pun; on the third night, raise a Rabban Gin-liel.
Recipe: 2 oz gin, 3/4 oz. crème de violette, 1/2 oz. lemon juice. Add a splash of brine from pickled grapes (or another splash of lemon juice); garnish with a pickled grape* and a sprig of Thai basil. (*We highly recommend the pickled grape recipe from The Gefilte Manifesto, by Liz Alpern and Jeffrey Yoskowitz.)
4th Night: Hil-Lillet The Elder
"It's wrong to do an old man's drink for Hillel the Elder, right?" wondered the Nuclear Engineer, in the tone Your Hostess has come to know means the next drink will be very, very right. "Maybe…can we call it a classic drink? Even though we mean elderly?" We compromised with a riff on James Bonds' beloved Vesper, with a splash of elderflower liqueur to disguise our less-than-flattering thoughts. On the fourth night, raise a Hil-Lillet the Elder to honor classic rabbis...and classic drinks.
Recipe: 4 parts gin, .5 part vodka, .5 part Lillet, .5 elderflower liqueur. Garnish with a lemon twist.
5th Night: Rav Napa
"Rav Papa," announced the Talmud Fairy. "We ought to dedicate Kiddush Club to him. He invented the siyyum and I think he was a brewer." "Not a vinter?" sighed The President. "Because Rav Napa would make a great wine drink." The North Sider furrowed his distinguished brow at the mention of wine punch and used his excellent photographic eye to assemble just the right colors and textures of fruits. "That would actually taste good with a latke," noted the Sorority President. Raise a glass of sangria on the fifth night in honor of Rav Papa.
Recipe: Fill a glass with Moscato and chopped fruit, and top off with a little seltzer.
6th Night: Elazar Ben Arak
"We'll do Elazar ben Arach!" crowed the Local Scholar. "We have some arak left over from the B.O.A.Z., right?" Your Hostess groaned. "You should probably use the blood-orange soda,too. That's the night I learned "arak and citrus" is synonymous with 'Gap Year in Israel'. " It was a funny experience for our crowd--most of us don't have a cultural context for a year like that. Maybe that's why a mix of juice and arak tasted a little off to us, a drink we couldn't connect to. We added a generous splash of elderflower, mellowing out the strong flavors that stood in opposition. On the sixth night, toast to finding common ground with the Elizar ben Arak.
Recipe: 4 parts blood orange soda, 1 part arak, 1/2 part elderflower liqueur. Garnish with a leaf of pineapple sage (basil can substitute).
7th Night: ShamMai-Tai
"So it turns out the almond syrup is kosher," mentioned the Sorority President. "I guess I'll have to buy the clear curacao, so we can make a real MaiTai at shul." See, the blue curacao is one of our Kiddush Club go-tos; it started as a joke (what could be more Jewish than blue and white drinks?), but now we're more-or-less champions of this underdog liquor than never seems to win its way into respectable drinks...which made us think of another rabbi that everyone knows, but few seem to follow. On the seventh night, honor blue curacao (and the rabbi best known for dissenting opinions) by drinking a ShamMai-Tai.
Recipe: 1.5 parts light rum, .5 part blue curaco, .5 part orgeat (almond syrup), 2 parts pineapple juice. Shake, top with a splash of dark rum. (Pour the rum over a spoon and down the side of a glass, or splash and wait a minute for the layers to separate.)
8th Night: Hil-Lillet The Younger
"We always planned on Tequila the Elder and Tequila the Younger," observed a Distinguished Member, "but maybe Hil-Lillet the Younger would be a better joke." We all liked that. The same Tipple...er, we mean Torah...but seen through two very different lenses. "Hillel the Younger is in Pirkei Avot, right?" he continued, and we found that even more fitting. On the eighth night, lift a fresh, youthful Hil-Lillet the Younger to the wisdom of all who have gone before us, and all who are just getting started, and all those yet to come.
Recipe: 1 part Lillet, 2 parts tonic, cucumber, 1 part strawberry puree. Garnish with strawberry and mint.