Thursday, April 21, 2011

manischewitz cobbler & flip

With Passover upon us, I often hear questions about what can people drink since beer, whiskey, grain-based vodka and gin, and other ingredients are not allowed by lax standards and most things are not allowed by stricter ones. Some of my first alcohol memories came from drinking Manischewitz at Passover Seders. All I recall was not enjoying it despite it being sweetened and made from similar grapes as Welch's grape juice. Since then, Kosher for Passover wines have come a long way; however, none of them are as iconic as Manischewitz Concord Grape Wine. So how can this be improved? Or better yet, what would Jerry Thomas make for a Seder?

One of the Jerry Thomas recipes in the 1862 How to Mix Drinks; A Bon Vivant's Companion that I have not been able to make is the Catawba Cobbler. Catawba is a native grape hybrid that produces foxy and odorous wines that played a major role in the country's early wine production. By Jerry Thomas' early days, it was the most widely planted grape variety in the country; now, there are only a small number of wineries that sell this and few liquor stores actually will carry it. Instead of acquiring some in my next trip out to the Finger Lakes region of New York, I decided to use Manischewitz which is made from native grapes (51% Concord with no declaration of what the rest is). While it is not as odorous and unique as Catawba, any recipe that works for Catawba should do quite well with Manischewitz.
Catawba Manischewitz Cobbler
• 1 tsp Sugar
• 1 tbsp Water
• 2 wineglass Wine (4 oz Manishewitz Concord)
Dissolve sugar in water. To add flavor, I muddled the sugar with orange peel before adding the water. While a shaking with ice step was not specified, I added wine and ice, shaked, and strained. Strain into a tumbler filled with shaved ice (crushed ice). Add a straw and ornament with an orange slice and berries in season.
The ornamentation contributed greatly to the drink's aroma which was filled with strawberry and orange notes. The sip was a slightly orange-tinged fruit flavor that was followed by a funky native American grape swallow. While the starting ingredient here was not as tasty as the Pedro Ximénez in the Sherry Cobbler at the Cure bar, the drink here was almost as enjoyable. Between the extra sugar and the melting ice, the Manischewitz was tamed considerably. Later versions of Catawba Cobblers that include orange juice or muddled/shaken orange slices would probably bring the drink some extra glory. While I wanted to stick with the recipe as Jerry gave it, I could not help but think that a dash or two of Angostura would work wonders here.
Since I still had a mostly full bottle of wine in front of me, I figured that I should attempt another recipe that could possibly work even better than the Cobbler -- a Flip! Along with orange juice, dairy, and honey, egg works wonders in taming rougher ingredients. While I could not find a Catawba Flip, I did have a recipe for a Claret one in Tom Bullock's The Ideal Bartender (although my hardcopy is entitled 173 Pre-Prohibition Cocktails: Potations So Good They Scandalized A President).
Claret Manischewitz Flip
• 2 heaping tsp Sugar (1 tsp)
• 1 1/2 jigger Wine (2 1/4 oz Manishewitz Concord)
• 1 Egg
Dissolve sugar in water (2 tsp). Add rest of ingredients and ice, shake, and strain into a punch glass. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.
Since Manischewitz is a sweetened wine opposed to a dry claret, I decreased the additional sugar in the recipe. Unlike in the Cobbler, the grape notes did enter into the aroma along with the nutmeg garnish. The egg provided a creamy sip and mellowed out the funky grape notes on the swallow. Strangely, the drink finished sweeter than it started on the sip. Over time, the nutmeg entered the flavor profile and provided some nice spice notes that complemented the wine's funkiness.
So there are two drinks that can easily be made completely Kosher for Passover even by the strictest laws. The pre-Prohibition bartenders often had to deal with poor quality wines and spirits, so their wisdom pays dividends in making Manischewitz into tasty libations. Their wisdom does not extend into what to do with Matzoh to make it more palatable though.

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