An Apple and Honey Cocktail For Rosh Hashana

photo by Rachel via Flickr
photo by Rachel via Flickr

For Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, when we can’t be with family to sit down to a proper festival meal of brisket, kugel and honey cake, my dear friend Jason (whom I refer to as my “brother-once-removed”) and I have a tradition of seeking out apple and honey cocktails at New York City cocktail bars.

Clearly this tradition is a tad… unorthodox. In more ways than one.  

However, the holiday is all about celebrating a new trip around the sun, the harvest, the fruit of the earth and a chance for a sweet year to come, which is why apples dipped in honey are the most important symbols of the holiday tradition. What better way to celebrate such festive fall flavors than with cocktails?

The challenge for two Jews walking into a bar ordering apple and honey drinks in lieu of visiting a proper tashlich (literally, a body of water containing fresh fish that symbolizes the casting off of sins - so yes, we go to a different sort of watering hole instead) is that we’re asking the bartenders to go off menu and improvise. Although it’s not as though we’re showing up at any old gin joint in town - favorite locations over the years have been Clover Club, Dear Irving and (the soon-to-be-resurrected) Ward III - establishments which typically stock a good apple brandy and homemade honey syrup.

photo by Amanda Schuster
photo by Amanda Schuster

Is the apple brandy Kosher? Well, we’re already off scripture here. However, I decided this year, of all years we could all use some sweet blessings. Let’s do this properly.

So for you, an apple and honey cocktail for a sweet year, Old Lang Zion, made with kosher spirits for all your kibbitzing (entertaining) needs. How to know if a spirit is kosher? I wrote a guide some time ago and there are also a few lists online. For this holiday, it needn’t be kosher for Passover, but just plain kosher, which means it is “fit” for consumption. The general rule for a kosher spirit is that it is not fruit-based (if it is, it has to be certified by a rabbi and labeled as kosher), nor has it been aged in a barrel that previously held wine. However, ex-bourbon barrels, as well as new oak are acceptable, as is any spirit made of sugar cane or grains as long as it is unaged or not matured in wine casks - so this means rum, agave, gin and whiskey are all gut as long as they are unaged or meet the cask requirements.

Happy 5778! L’chaim!

Old Lang Zion

(Note: I use rum here, but non fruit-based gin or kosher whiskey will also be delicious in this recipe.)

  • 2 oz/60 mL aged (in ex-bourbon barrels) rum (I used Ron Abuelo 12 Year)
  • 1 oz/30 mL Calvados (there are some certified kosher ones, such as Boulard)
  • ½ oz/15 mL apple cider
  • ½ oz/15 mL fresh lemon juice
  • 1 oz/30 mL honey syrup (1 part honey to 1 part water dissolved) (adjust this measurement up or down for desired level of sweetness)
  • garnish: dried apple slice (if you have access to a dehydrator, a delightful option), freshly grated cinnamon, honey-sugar rim on the glass (all optional - this does not need to be a pain in the tuchas)

Shake the shpilkes out of all ingredients with ice until well chilled and frothy. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish or not. By now you’ve already made bubbe proud. Serve with fresh apples and honey on the side.

From all of us at Alcohol Professor, L'shana tova!