Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Educational cocktails: the Bikkur fizz and the Minim-tini

I have been going through a number of significant spiritual transformations of late.  Not least of these is my shift to cocktail consumption. For most of my life, I freely impugned the masculinity of both male and female friends who consumed mixed drinks.  My standards were very stringent. In my mind the difference between a single malt scotch straight up and a scotch on the rocks was far greater than what I saw as the minimal distance between scotch on the rocks and the girliest of girlie drinks.  Well, I have had to drink crow, and over the past year or so have come to enjoy cocktails as much as anyone.  Which brings me to Parshat Eikev.

Last week was Shabbat Eikev, and the weekly Torah reading includes the statement "God your Lord is bringing you to a good land - a land with flowing streams and underground springs gushing out in valley and mountain.  It is a land of wheat, barley, grapes, figs and pomegranates, a land of oil-olive and honey.  (Deuteronomy 8:7-8.  Because the products on the list are all from plants, the honey is traditionally interpreted as date honey rather than bee honey.)   These seven items are known as the shivat ha-minim or the seven species of plants characteristic of the land of Israel.  This was the produce deemed suitable for presentation as first fruits, or Bikkurim, in Temple times.  

To me, this sounded like the list of ingredients for some interesting cocktails.  I created two, the Bikkur fizz and the Minim-tini.   (Particular thanks to Rabbi Kara Tav for helping to come up with the names.) They are both good, if rather strong, and excellent conversation starters.  They are most suitable for serving on Tu BeShevat, the New Year of Trees when it is customary to eat produce from Israel; Yom Ha-atzma'ut, Israeli Independence Day; Shavuot, when the first fruits were customarily brought to the Temple (though the prayer for the presentation of the Bikkurim has become the core of the Passover Haggadah, though that is another story); Shabbat Eikev, when the list of shivat ha-minim  is read, or whenever you want a tasty, somewhat fruity drink with a story to go with it.  Try to make thes with at least some Israeli or Palestinian products if you can find them -- it is good for a cocktail celebrating the land to include some fruits of the land.

Bikkur Fizz  (1 serving)

  • 1 teaspoon date honey (Silan)
  • 1 chopped green olive or 1/2 teaspoon brine from the jar
  • 1 tablespoon fig jam
  • 1/2 ounce scotch (barley)
  • 1 ounce fig brandy (popular among Tunisian Jews --a good product is available from France called Boukha Bokobsa and easy to find around Pesach;  there is also a product from Yonkers call Mahia that you can use; if you cannot find either, proportionately increase the scotch and brandy)
  • 1/2 ounce grape brandy
  • dash Angostura bitters
  • 2-3 ounces pomegranate juice (well-chilled, OK to use more if you want a less alcoholic drink)
  • 2-4 ounces wheat beer (well chilled)
  • twist of orange rind
  1. Muddle together the date honey,, olive and fig jam in a cocktail shaker. 
  2. Stir in the scotch and brandies until well mixed.
  3. Add the bitters and pomegranate juice.
  4. Add ice to the shaker and shake for 15-30 seconds until the mixture is very cold.
  5. Rub the orange twist around an 8 ounce or larger  drinking or wine glass.
  6. Strain in the mixture from the shaker.
  7. Top off with beer and serve.
Making this drink for a crowd:  Depending on the size of your shaker, you can make up to 3 serings with relative ease.   A different strategy is needed for a larger crowd.  Prepare everything through the bitters in a shaker, holding back on the pomegranate juice and the beer.  After shaking, strain into a large pitcher with some ice in it, add the pomegranate juice and stir.  Put orange twists in each glass, distribute the mixture from the pitcher, and top off with beer.

Minim-tini  (1 serving)

  • 1/2 teaspoon each pomegranate molasses, date honey (silan), and brine from a green olive jar or can
  • 1/2 oz scotch
  • 1/2 oz fig brandy
  • 1/2 oz white vermouth
  • 1 oz gin (citrus-y new Amsterdam gin worked very well here;  most gins are made with wheat)
  • lemon twist

  1. Rinse a martini or similar glass with water and put in the freezer to chill while you prepare the drink.
  2. Mix pomegranate molasses, date honey and the bring in a large glass or small cocktail shaker until smooth.  
  3. Stir int he Scotch, brandy, vermouth and gin, making sure that the other ingredients are dissolved well.  Fill the glass or shaker with ice and stir for 60 seconds.
  4. Scrunch the twist, rub along the inside of the martini glass, and strain the contents of the
  5. mixing utensil into the martini glass and serve.

Why the brine?  While it adds a savory note to the cocktail that offsets the sweetness of the other ingredients, the primary reason is visual.  Due to the pomegranate and date, the drink takes on an amber color.  The sight of an olive resting in the bottom of this cocktail is not as appealing as that of a green olive in clear spirits.  If you don't believe it, try it for yourself. 


  1. Hello! This is Shayna, Sarah's friend. I would also like to sing the wonders of bouha, fig brandy. It has recently become very popular in Israel, including at my favorite Jerusalem bar, Casino de Paris, owned by Shaanan Street of Hadag Nahash fame. There, it features prominently in a drink called Arab Spring. It contains bouha, mint, pomegranate juice, soda, a splash of grenadine, and entire cardamon pods. It is quite lovely. They have other excellent cocktails, but after careful testing, this is my favorite.

  2. Hi Shayna -- your dogged testing pursuit of excellence is to be commended. The arab spring sounds great, I willh ave to try to do something like this, though I may not be able to get another bottle of Boukha until Pesach and I am almost out now. Mint and pomegrante is a great combo too. Of course, I could always head to the Casino de Paris