Purim Themed Cocktails

Please note, two important things before starting on these recipes. Firstly, if you have concerns regarding kosher alcohol, I suggest checking out the rather complete list published by the Chicago Rabbinical Council (cRc). The list can be found on their website, or directly by clicking here. Secondly, and no less important, please remember to drink responsibly. Know your limit, and stay within it! If you have had too much to drink, please consider staying over at your host’s house, taking a cab or public transportation. Do not drink and drive.

Rise of MordechaiRise of Mordechai

This is a sparkling pomegranate margarita that celebrates the elevation of Mordechai from condemned man to hero of the Purim story. The pomegranate seeds will rise up on the bubbles from the sparkling water, just like Mordechai did!

Ingredients:

2 ounces Cointreau (or other orange liqueur)
1 ½ ounces Tequila
2 ounces pomegranate juice
2 ounce lime juice
1 ½ ounces simple syrup (see below for instructions)
coarse salt for the rim
lime + pomegranate seeds for garnish*
Sparkling water

* Click here for tips on seeding a pomegranate.

Directions:

For simple syrup: combine equal parts sugar and water, bring to a boil and let sugar dissolve, then turn off heat and let cool completely.

Rim the ridge of a large glass with a lime wedge and dip in salt. Fill the glass with ice. In a cocktail shaker, combine tequila, Cointreau, pomegranate juice, simple syrup and lime juice with ice, and shake for about 30 seconds. Pour over ice and top off with cold sparkling water and a few extra lime slices. Add some pomegranate seeds for decoration.

Heart of HamanDark Heart of Haman

This drink takes on the dark colour of the blackberries and their tartness, just like Haman’s heart! The hint of sage, the “wise herb” adds to the vanity of Haman, who thought he was so smart! This syrup and puree will make enough for a couple of drinks. You’ll need about 6 ounces of sparkling water and 2 ounces of rum per serving.

Ingredients:

15 medium sage leaves*
4 tablespoons sugar
1 cup water
8 ounces of frozen blackberries*
Sparkling water
White Rum

* Click here for instructions on sage and blackberries.

Directions:

Bring the water and sugar to a boil over high heat just until sugar dissolves. Crush the sage leaves with the back of a spoon and add to the syrup mixture and set aside to let the sage infuse for 15 minutes and then remove the herbs.

Meanwhile puree the blackberries in the blender and then strain the mixture through a fine strainer.

To serve place a tablespoon of the blackberry puree in the bottom of a glass, add a tablespoon of the sage syrup, 2 ounces of rum and then top off with about ounces of sparkling water.

Esther's SecretEsther’s Secret

The heroine of the Purim story had many secrets… most famous though was her Jewish identity that she kept hidden until the time was right. This drink represents Esther, both in its beauty, and it’s hidden strength… it packs quite the punch!

Ingredients:

2 ounces rum
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce triple sec

Directions:

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add the rum, sweet vermouth and triple sec. Shake for about 30 seconds and then pour into a chilled martini glass.

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Purim – The Drinking Holiday

Kosher WineYes, Jews drink. This comes as a surprise to some, and not so much to others. True, traditionally speaking, we’re not big drinkers. We have a lot of ceremonial occasions where alcohol, wine specifically is a key part of the observance. We have the weekly Sabbath, where we say Kiddush (the blessing over the wine) at the Friday night meal, the Saturday lunch and then again Saturday night to conclude the observance. Our wedding ceremonies have seven blessings that are said over a cup of wine, at the ceremony itself and then every night for seven nights following. Wine in the Jewish religion is important, and is on a different level, in it’s making and drinking, then any other spirit. But “big drinking”? Drinking to excess and getting drunk? Again, traditionally, not a very popular activity in the Jewish world (Yes, I know that there are Jewish alcoholics, and I am not referring to them in this discussion, though it is a very real problem. There is a wonderful organization based here in Toronto called JACS, that works to help those suffering from alcoholism and addiction, and their families. For more information, please click on this link to be brought to their website).

There is a big exception to this rule though. The holiday of Purim. Jews in general, observant ones specifically, tend to be a pious, spiritual body of people. They spend their days in the observance of G-d’s laws and commandments, and strive to fulfill them to the best of their ability. Alcohol, for the sake of becoming imbibed, directly takes away from that practice. How can you learn, study and teach if you can’t walk in a straight line? In fact, part of Noah’s downfall after the flood, which led to his shame and the cursing of his son and grandson, is as of the direct result of drinking too much wine (read more about that here).

So why is Purim different? Part of the celebration during the holiday is to drink to excess, to achieve a state in which one can no longer differentiate between the villain Haman and the hero Mordechai. I looked around for different sources and explanations (ie: Google Search), and I came across and interesting article on the Chabad website. It stated that by becoming incapciated it is as if we are saying: “Even if we can no longer differentiate between things whose differences should be abundantly clear, we still know that we shall not lack salvation, that our hopes are not fruitless and that our joy is not unbased, for in G-d alone do we place our trust. Whether sober or inebriated, we fear no evil, for You are with us forever.”

It is easy to mark the differences between a “cursed is Haman” and a “blessed is Mordechai”. They are polar opposites on the scale of righteousness. However, what is harder is to learn to recognize the minute intermediate stages between these two extremes. Can you tell the differences between someone who is “mostly good” or “mostly evil”? At what point does the scale tip?

If one has consumed enough on Purim that these stages are no longer clear, then he is considered to have fulfilled his obligation, but there are different ways to find righteousness in this world. Is it through the merits and victory of the good? Or just the downfall of the evil? Is it enough that our enemies perish, or should we elevate ourselves as well?

When the Jewish People act meritoriously, the righteous are exalted and it is their praise that is expressed; all are happy and the joy is complete. But when we lack merit, and our salvation is realized through the downfall of the wicked who are excessively evil, the entire world trembles in fear of G-d, but there is no joy. Thus, the happiness of “blessed is Mordechai” – of the Jewish People being saved through their own merits – is greater than “cursed is Haman” – the salvation that comes when the wicked have been destroyed.Nevertheless, the Sages ruled that on Purim one is required to drink until he reaches the point where he can no longer differentiate between these two types of salvation. Why? Because the downfall of Haman is completely different from the downfall of other wicked people. The joy that results from his defeat is as complete as that which results from the victory of the righteous. Haman is a descendant of Amalek, of whom the verse states: “And in the destruction of the wicked there is song (Proverbs, 11:10)”. When Amalek is obliterated, it is as if there is a revelation of the Spirit of G-d in the world and it is therefore fitting that we celebrate.

Thus, there is no difference between the joy associated with “cursed is Haman” and that associated with “blessed is Mordechai.” So that man might not be distressed that he has merited salvation because of the excessive evil of the wicked rather than through his own merit, our Sages ordained that he drink and forget the difference between these two sources of salvation.