Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Drinking Man's Guide to Passover

If you or your spouse (or both) are Jewish, and you observe the traditions of Passover (as we do in my home), you know that the preparation for the eight-day holiday involves ridding you home home of Chametz. Chametz means bread, grains, corn, all sorts of starch.

(The drinking reader here takes a moment to consider this before light finally breaks. "Wait a minute?" he cries. "That includes most of my booze!")

That's right, imbibers. Passover is basically the enemy of cocktails, and most straight liquors in general. Kiss your scotch, bourbon, rye, gin, tequila and vodka goodbye. Even if you're pretty sure that your vodka is solely distilled from potatoes (which are OK for Passover), if it doesn't have "Kosher for Passover" printed on the label, a lot of Jewish households are going to let it in the door. And it goes without saying that your old friend "liquid bread"—beer—is banished for the duration.

So how do you get through such an ordeal? (Besides cheat, and get your drinks outside, which I'm not saying I've done, and not saying I haven't done.) Well, of course, there's wine. And, as I've stated before (though people still don't seem to get it), there are many, many good Kosher (and Kosher for Passover) wines out there. I had a few during the first and second seders, including the Capcanes Peraj Petita from Montsant, Spain, which was excellent. But there are plenty of disappointments along the way as well. I had a fairly old kosher Bordeaux which I thought would be a treat, but turned out to be tight and nondescript. I also sampled an honest-to-goodness Kosher for Passover Vintage Port, which I was very excited about. But it was disappointing, rather insipid in flavor and lacking in depth or real character.

There are increasingly some odd exceptions on the liquor market. Carmel make a KFP vodka. Many Slivovitz brands (plum brandy) pass muster, because, for some reason, religious Jews can't get enough of this paint thinner. KFP tequila would have been unheard-of a few years ago, but now there's Casa Vieja, both Anejo and Blanco, which goes for $49 and $39, respectively. That means—yes—you can have a Kosher for Passover Margarita. Now, there's a seder enlivener!

And there's also Flor de Cana Gran Reserve 7-year-old Rum, the only rum with a Kosher certification. I'm fudging a bit by including it here, since it's not Kosher for Passover, but, for less exacting households, it might be perfectly fine. Why Flor de Cana went to the bother to get this certification, I don't know. But it certainly sets them apart.

The 7-year-old is a sipping rum, with a caramel nose. The taste is smooth and silky, with a candied beginning, followed by caramel, vanilla and wood. My main complaint about it is the finish, which just drops off. But otherwise, it's quite pleasurable.

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