For most, Passover is commemorated by imbibing wine—and lots of it. But thanks to The Sipping Seder—a Web site dedicated to creating non-traditional cocktails inspired by elements of a traditional Seder plate—many may mix it up with mixed drinks instead.
“The concept behind The Sipping Seder was to re-imagine the traditional Passover meal as a cocktail list based on classic inspirations and a bit of modern mixology,” says Rob Corwin, cofounder of the site. He and his partner, Danny Jacobs are based in San Francisco. “The nature of the project is rather irreverent, but we put a lot of serious thought into the cocktail recipes,” he says.
The duo morphed the usual dinner plate into delectable and easy-to-make cocktails; bitter herbs translate into bitter apéritif liqueurs, the charred egg is a frothy egg-based cocktail, and the apples-and-honey dish, known as charoset, is a honey-infused vodka cocktail.
Corwin and Jacobs conjured the idea of the site over honey-based vodka cocktails on a night out while vacationing in Beijing. They brought the vodka home and experimented with it.
“One night we happened to combine it with sweet vermouth and Danny mentioned that it reminded him of charoset, the sweet paste that represents mortar on the Seder plate,” says Corwin. The rest is history.
Over the next two years, Corwin and Jacobs crafted recipes in their spare time without the assistance of professional mixologists, and last month, just in time for Passover, The Sipping Seder Web site launched.
“It was hard not to talk about something that became a real passion and a bit of an obsession for us, but we kept it a secret right up until the end,” Corwin says.
So what’s next on the agenda for the site? While there’s no strategic plan, Corwin says “the reaction has been phenomenal, and it will certainly spur us on to do more. What form that will take is hard to say at this point.” The two are considering looking at other Jewish traditions through a cocktail lens.
At the Seder table, charoset is usually made with walnuts, honey, apples, cinnamon and red wine ground into a gravelly paste, and is intended to represent the mortar used by Jewish slaves to build the cities and storehouses of ancient Egypt.
Here, the liquid approach plays up the honey element. Adding ½ ounce of Calvados (French apple brandy) is a recommended variation.
1 ounce 42 Below Manuka Honey Vodka
1 ounce Dolin Sweet Vermouth
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and stir with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and dust with freshly grated cinnamon.
Based on the second bitter herb on the Seder plate, often represented by parsley, this is another reminder of the severe life of a slave. Here, the delightfully bitter apéritif Cynar, made with artichokes, stands in.
1 ounce No. 209 Gin
½ ounce Carpano Antica
½ ounce Cynar
¼ ounce fresh lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass. Fill with 2/3 of ice and shake well. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist a spiral of orange peel over the cocktail and use as a garnish.