There’s so much more to Pesach alcohol than your grandfather’s Silvovitz (or Arak if you’re Sephardi) and the four cups of wine during the Seder.
First, some ground rules:
Jews are biblically prohibited from consuming chometz, products that contain even a speck of wheat, barley, rye, oats or spelt, during the 8 days of Passover. The most notable exception is, of course, matzo — which is produced under carefully-controlled conditions to make sure that it is baked before it has a chance to rise. Indeed, as an extra precaution, some communities have the custom to avoid eating even matzo if it has come into contact with any liquid (known as matza sh’ruyah in Hebrew or gebrochts in Yiddish).
So anything with chametz is out. Of course, many beloved alcoholic beverages are formed from derivatives of these five grains: beer, most whiskey and any other alcohol that doesn’t have reliable kosher for Passover certification. As the Orthodox Union states in their 2018 Passover Guide, “Alcohol and other fermented products are subject to additional halachic stringencies because of their strong taste and smell,” so reliable certification is a must for observant consumers.
But there’s so much that is kosher for Passover: Most kosher wine and brandies and many varieties of gin, tequila and vodka.
Below, we present our kosher for Passover picks — whether it’s a warming cocktail, a bracingly bitter shot or a chilled glass of rosé that you crave, you deserve to enjoy all eight days of Passover with a cold (or hot) drink in hand.
Proper brandy is made from distilled wine, so kosher varieties are often kosher for Passover by default. There are also varieties made from other fruits, such as the classic Slivovitz (made from plums), Clear Creek Cherry Brandy (technically a schnapps), and Boukha Bokobsa (made from figs). The fancy classicists can stick with Louis Royer Cognac XO.
Recommended Cocktail: A Sweet Reminder Of Survival
Technically a type of flavored vodka, gin can be hard to find with Passover certification. Thankfully, Distillery 209 makes a beautiful bottle of kosher for Passover gin.
Recommended Cocktail: It’s Basically Summer Now Right?
Do you know the Secret Jewish History of Rum? Unfortunately, although it’s derived from sugarcane and doesn’t need kosher certification during the year, I was unable to find any brands that are certified for Passover. If you have, email me!
Made from agave, there are several kosher for Passover tequila options, including Cava White Tequila and Barón Tequila Blanco. The Supervisores en Calidad Kosher of Mexico have also released a comprehensive list of tequilas that they certify for Passover use, even without it being indicated on the label.
Recommended “Cocktail”: Just pretend you’re in college and pair with some salt and a wedge of lime — ice and seltzer optional.
Vodka is the sad lunch of alcohols — you can make it out of just about anything. Those that are kosher for Passover are mostly potato based, including 3 Kilos Vodka, Askalon Vodka, Givon Vodka, Moses Vodka and even this delicious-sounding David’s Harp Citron Lemon Flavored Vodka.
Recommended Cocktail: Vodka Does Not Deserve A Cocktail — It Deserves A Reminder Of The Pain Of Jewish History
I saved the best for last, of course. In 2018, you don’t even have to try to find a wine that’s kosher for Passover. There are so many delicious options: Champagne. Bordeaux. My new 2018 favorites. Overpriced kosher wine hawked by a celebrity. Easy classics.
Just please do me a favor: you owe it to your Seder guests not to serve Manischewitz. Haven’t the Jews suffered enough?
A Note About Kitniyot
It is possible, although less common, to produce whiskey from corn. Is this kosher for Passover?
For the past 800 years or so, Ashkenazi Jews have refrained from eating products made from or containing kitniyot — Rice, millet and legumes — during Passover.
For Sephardic Jews and Ashkenazi Jews who belong to the Conservative movement, kitniyot is fine to consume, though individual customs vary by family and community, and alcohols derived from these products may be consumed if they have reliable certification.
Did we miss any of your favorite wines and sprits? Send us an email!
Laura E. Adkins is the Forward’s Deputy Opinion Editor and runs Scribe, the Forward’s Contributor Network. She holds a B.A. in Economics from NYU and grew up in Southwest Missouri. She writes about data, orthodoxy, kosher wine and builds interactive maps — though usually not all at the same time. Contact Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org, like her page on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.