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.
- 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
- Muddle together the date honey,, olive and fig jam in a cocktail shaker.
- Stir in the scotch and brandies until well mixed.
- Add the bitters and pomegranate juice.
- Add ice to the shaker and shake for 15-30 seconds until the mixture is very cold.
- Rub the orange twist around an 8 ounce or larger drinking or wine glass.
- Strain in the mixture from the shaker.
- Top off with beer and serve.
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
- Rinse a martini or similar glass with water and put in the freezer to chill while you prepare the drink.
- Mix pomegranate molasses, date honey and the bring in a large glass or small cocktail shaker until smooth.
- 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.
- Scrunch the twist, rub along the inside of the martini glass, and strain the contents of the
- 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.