Cocktails for the Jewish New Year

If you are reading this online on Tuesday (before sundown) then it is still Rosh Hashanah: the Jewish New Year. If you are reading it after sundown or on Wednesday, while it is still technically “the new year,” it is just no longer during the Rosh Hashanah holiday. Outside of the sounding of the shofar (a hollowed ram’s horn that is blown like a trumpet) the Jewish New Year celebration is a more muted affair than most other “new year” celebrations. As part of the High Holy Days (their beginning, in fact), Rosh Hashanah is a time of reflection leading up to the fasting and atonement of Yom Kippur, the only Jewish Holiday which doesn’t feature food or drink.

But we aren’t there quite yet (Yom Kippur is Oct 4). And if there is one thing that is always a good idea before fasting, it is fortifying oneself in advance, either physically or spiritually, or both. And since this column is focused on “spirits” there is really only one way for us to go.

Several foods are associated with the Rosh Hashanah holiday and they all have symbolic meanings. And while the holiday may be over, the foods celebrating that holiday are still delicious. We will leave the many arguments about what being “kosher” is for another time, and instead, we will focus on the generally accepted symbolic foods, specifically the ones that lend themselves best to cocktails.

  1. Apples and honey: apples have long been associated with healing, and honey is indicative of sweetness. The two combined symbolize having a sweet and heathy new year.
  2. Carrots: carrots symbolize prosperity, in Yiddish, the word for carrots is “mern,” and the word for more is “mer.” Who doesn’t love a good pun?
  3. Pomegranates: Jewish tradition teaches that a pomegranate has 613 seeds, each of which corresponding to one of the 613 commandments in the Torah. And the pomegranate has long been associated with prosperity.
  4. New Fruit: eating something unfamiliar on the second day of Rosh Hashanah symbolizes the “newness” of the new year. The pomegranate often falls into this category, but so do novel fruits, such as starfruit, gooseberries and, in our case, lychees. After all, it is supposed to be new to you.

So, whether before, during, or after, the Rosh Hashanah holiday, these four cocktails are all symbolic of the Jewish New Year, and all are localized, of course, for your consumption.

Shana Tova U’Metuka! (“Have a good and sweet year!”)

Happy Rosh Hashanah!

Honeyed Sour Apple

1 ½ ounces Alley 6 apple brandy

1 ounce fresh squeezed Meyer lemon juice

½ ounce honey syrup*

½ ounce aquafaba

1 dried apple slice

Pumpkin spice

Combine first four ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until foamy, strain into a chilled cocktail coupe, garnish with apple slice and dust with pumpkin spice.

Note: Honey syrup is a type of simple syrup diluting honey 50/50 with hot water and then allowed to cool. Sugar doesn’t dissolve easily in liquor, so pre-dissolving any sugar; honey, agave, or cane, is always recommended before making drinks with it.

Tzimmes Margarita*

1 ½ ounces Santo Blanco tequila

½ ounce Grand Marnier (or Gran Gala)

1 ounce fresh squeezed carrot juice

½ ounce fresh squeezed lime juice

½ ounce spicy “hot” jalapeno infused honey (diluted to 1 ounce with hot water)

3 golden raisons

Rim serving glass halfway with cinnamon sugar, fill with ice and set aside. In a cocktail shaker combine tequila, carrot juice, lime juice, and hot honey/water. Shake until combined and strain into the ice filled salted glass. Top with a float of Grand Marnier.

Note: Tzimmes is traditionally a carrot stew made with dried raisons (or other dried fruit).

Kosher Bee’s Knees*

2 ounces Buffalo Trace Kosher “wheat recipe” bourbon whiskey

1 ½  ounces fresh squeezed Meyer lemon juice

½ ounce honey simple syrup

Granulated honey

¼ teaspoon fresh honeycomb

Rim serving glass halfway with granulated honey and fill with ice. Combine whiskey, Meyer lemon juice and honey syrup and shake until well combined. Strain into serving glass and top with honeycomb.

Note: the rules for Kosher are complicated and involved. Aside from using kosher ingredients and equipment (and the blessing itself), Buffalo Trace also needed to ensure that no “leavened grain” product was owned by observant Jews during the week of Passover. So, the company actually turns over ownership to a “non-Jewish” executive solely during Passover (each Passover, presumably, during its 7 year aging process) in order to maintain its “kosher” standing.


1 ½ ounces 209 Kosher for Passover gin*

¾ ounce good quality clear triple sec (Cointreau, Combier, Citronage)

½ ounce fresh squeezed lime juice

½ ounce cranberry juice

½ ounce pomegranate juice

10 pomegranate seeds

Combine all liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until ice cold. Strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass and garnish with pomegranate seeds.

Note: “Kosher for Passover” is a more rigid standard than “regular’ kosher. For the former, grains may not be used at all (debates continue), so Distillery 209 in San Francisco uses a sugar distillate rather than grain one specifically for their “Kosher for Passover” products.

New Fruit Spritz

1 ½ ounces 209 Kosher for Passover vodka

½ ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice

½ ounce lychee syrup

½ ounce dry sparkling wine like prosecco or cava

2 canned lychees

1 borage flower*

Combine vodka, lemon juice and syrup in a shaker with ice. Sake until cold and strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass. Top with prosecco and garnish with two lychees on a long toothpick intersected with a borage flower.

Note: thanks to the late summers in California, it is possible to still get edible borage flowers even in late September.