Skip To Content

What Does Michael Cohen’s Choice Of Glenlivet 12 Whisky Tell Us?

Michael Cohen entered a guilty plea on August 21 and, when questioned by the judge about his state of mind and consumption of drugs or alcohol said “Last night at dinner I had a glass of Glenlivet 12 on the rocks.”

As whisky correspondent for the Forward, I was asked by our political writers to shed light on this peculiar statement, and here are the five salient facts I think it’s safe to take from it.

We don’t know that he actually did drink the Glenlivet 12 but, even if he did, it would have sufficed to say that he had a single glass of whisky. His superfluous specificity shows that he is trying to make a point about who he is. He is clearly proud of his choice and wants people to know both that he drinks hard liquor, indeed a quality whisky, and that he does so in moderation.

Although pleading guilty on the same day as Paul Manafort was found guilty has lumped them together as “Don’s Cons” (as per the New York Post), Glenlivet 12 is no ostrich jacket. Although prices vary from state to state and store to store, this is an affordable single malt, roughly in the $40 price range. He’s no wannabe oligarch, he’s a shady New York taxi lawyer and Mr. Fixit.

Glenlivet is a delicious Speyside single malt. The area around the River Spey in Northern Scotland produces a number of whiskies, Glenlivet (literally the “Livet Valley”) is a global best-seller. That he’s claiming not that he’s drinking bourbon or a blended whisky, but drinking a single malt Scotch (i.e. a whisky that is all produced in a single distillery in Scotland) is an attempt to show that — whether he drank that whisky or not — he’s a man of taste.

But that he’s drinking $40 whisky not, say the Glenlivet XXV (at about $400 a bottle, that I tasted at the 2010 Whiskyfest), shows that, unlike an earlier Jewish man in trouble with the court, this was no last supper. Cohen is saving the good stuff for later, so he’s confident there will be a later. This is a drink of a man with a second act.

Whisky’s lack of a cultic past (unlike wine which has a long history of pagan usage) along with the simplicity of process and ingredients (water, barley, yeast) make whisky kosher by nature. Scotch whisky (without an “e”) is a protected appellation meaning that the Scottish consumer organizations act as a first barrier of kosher certification. Drinking it on the rocks is an interesting move. It’s probable he didn’t get the taste for Glenlivet on the rocks at kiddush because, in my experience, ice is rarely left out for the drinks at the end of a Saturday morning service. He’s telling us that he’s kosher, but he’s not going to follow lockstep with the community.

Let me know if you have more insights into Cohen’s drink of explicit choice, tweet at me, @danfriedmanme

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.