Cocktails Capture Spirit of High Holiday Season

Cocktails Capture Spirit of High Holiday Season

Apples and honey combine in sweet apple punch, a bourbon cocktail that’s ideal for the new year.
Apples and honey combine in sweet apple punch, a bourbon cocktail that’s ideal for the new year.

By Robbie Medwed

As the sun sets and the year begins with the observance of Rosh Hashanah, families across the Jewish world will sit down to enjoy food, family and companionship. These times together help us prepare for powerful spiritual experiences at our synagogues and in our communities.

As part of our observance, many of us will indulge in dishes with symbolic foods that are said to bring us wisdom, success, fortune and luck, such as apples, honey, carrots and beets.

Tradition teaches that our holiday meals should be grand feasts fit for royalty. We’re supposed to pull out all the stops to make these times something special, and there’s no better way to turn a good meal into a great meal than with some incredible seasonal cocktails.

All of the ingredients in these recipes (except for the liquor) can be found at just about any grocery store. Almost all distilled spirits are inherently kosher and don’t need kosher certification, as long as there are no additives and they’re not aged in sherry or wine casks.

The label will say if there are any spices or extra flavors or if the alcohol has been aged in sherry or wine casks. (Avoid “spiced” rum and go for a nicer, barrel-aged or dark rum.) Angostura’s aromatic bitters and orange bitters are certified kosher.

Rum Old-Fashioned

The old-fashioned is widely regarded as the first cocktail. (It was originally called simply a “whiskey cocktail” until the Manhattan came along, which was new and hip. In return, the whiskey cocktail was seen as old-fashioned.)

Replacing whiskey with rum makes the old-fashioned new again.
Replacing whiskey with rum makes the old-fashioned new again.

Just as Rosh Hashanah is a chance to take what was old and make it new again, substituting rum for whiskey in this cocktail makes for a fun and unexpected update to a classic. If you don’t like rum and you want to stay traditional, you can substitute a whiskey of your choice for the rum, and the results will be just as delicious.


2 ounces dark or barrel-aged rum

1 teaspoon white sugar

2 drops aromatic bitters

2 drops orange bitters

1 teaspoon water

While the old-fashioned traditionally calls for a sugar cube, I don’t keep them around, and I’ve found that regular white sugar works just as well. Add the sugar, the bitters and the water to the bottom of a glass and mix well. Add the rum and some ice and stir. Garnish with an orange or lemon peel and enjoy.

Pomegranate Gin Fizz

Pomegranates are one of the most symbolic foods in Judaism, and because they come into season at the end of the summer, are perfect for Rosh Hashanah. They’re also no stranger to cocktails: Grenadine is simply sweetened pomegranate syrup.

The pomegranate gin fizz features a seasonal fruit ripe with symbolism in Judaism.
The pomegranate gin fizz features a seasonal fruit ripe with symbolism in Judaism.

This version uses an unsweetened version that’s easy to make: Simply boil some bottled pomegranate juice until it’s reduced by about half. Let it cool, and you’re good to go. The syrup will last about two weeks in the fridge if you want to make it ahead.


1½ ounces gin

½ ounce lime juice (about 1 lime half)

1 ounce pomegranate syrup

Soda water or sparkling wine

Pour the gin, lime juice and pomegranate syrup into a Collins glass (or a tumbler) with ice and stir well. Top with the soda water (for not-so-sweet) or sparkling wine (slightly sweeter). I like to garnish with a slice of lime on the rim.

Sweet Apple Punch

Of all the symbolic foods for Rosh Hashanah, apples and honey are the stars of the show. Any kind of good apple juice will work, though I prefer a higher-end, unsweetened version. If you want to use your kid’s juice box, reduce the amount of honey syrup to balance it out.

To make the honey syrup, heat equal parts honey and water in a saucepan until they’re well combined. Once that cools, it will last at least a few weeks in the fridge.


2 ounces bourbon

1 ounce apple juice or cider

½ ounce lemon juice

¾ ounce honey syrup

2 drops aromatic bitters

Ginger beer

Pour all ingredients except the ginger beer into a cocktail shaker with ice. Cover, shake well and strain into a glass. Top with ginger beer to your liking. (You can use ginger ale for a sweeter taste or skip the ginger entirely.) This recipe can be prepared ahead in large quantities; just mix all the ingredients, including the ginger ale/beer, in a punch bowl. Add ice to the bowl about 15 minutes before serving.

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