Like so many Jewish holidays, Passover is centered around food. And where there’s food, there’s booze. But Passover has more rules than usual – specifically, rules about what you can and cannot eat and drink, and that’s where things can start to get a little meshugenah.
Simply put, wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt, rice, corn, millet and legumes (that’s beans and lentils) are off limits. Why? The story goes that as the Jews were escaping Egypt and the tyrannical rule of the Pharaoh, they left in such a rush that they didn’t have time for the bread to rise. The result was matzo, the unleavened cracker that is beloved only by those who were raised on the stuff. But what does this have to do with booze? A wise question.
Nearly every spirit commonly consumed today is distilled from one of the prohibited grains. Nearly, but not all. So what spirits are kosher for Passover? To help you navigate what you can drink during the holiday, here is a complete guide to wine and spirits that are okay to drink on Passover.
Of course, all of this must be taken with a grain of salt. For the very observant, any booze must have a hekhsher, or an official stamp indicating that a rabbinical authority has approved a bottle’s kosher designation. So if you’re attending an orthodox Seder or looking for a host gift for an observant friend, be sure that the bottle you pick up has a rabbi’s seal of approval. For everyone else, you’re about to blow everyone’s mind when you show up with Passover gin – and ensure a zissen pesach!
Is Wine Okay for Passover? YES!
Red, white, rosé…it’s all good. Heck, you’re supposed to drink four glasses during the Seder. While many wines aren’t certified kosher, there’s nothing not kosher for Passover about grapes. When in doubt, Manischewitz. When in good taste, something better.
Is Beer Okay for Passover? NO!
No. Beer is made from hops, which are wheat. Definitely not okay during Passover. So don’t crack a cold one under any circumstances.
Is Cider Okay for Passover? YES!
Fermented apples are A-OK on Passover day! And night. And afternoon. In fact, Passover is a really good time to explore the wonderful world of cider…if you were looking for a distraction from not being able to cook pasta every night.
Is Vodka Okay for Passover? SOMETIMES!
Remember: grains are a no-no. You know what’s starchy but not a grain? Potatoes. And what makes great vodka? Potatoes. Boyd & Blair’s Potato Vodka is a clean and almost sweet vodka made from local Pennsylvania potatoes, which give it a rich, nearly creamy consistency. For a very cocktail you won’t want to pass over, peel a large piece of fresh horseradish and let it steep in Boyd & Blair’s Potato Vodka for a few days, then pick out the pieces of horseradish and mix up a horseradish martini.
Is Gin Okay for Passover? NO! BUT WAIT!
Most gin is made from grain – whether wheat, rye or barley – and sometimes corn. But, baruch hashem, we’ve found a gin made not from grain but from apples. Harvest Spirits’ Core Gin is distilled entirely from New York state apples, with nary a grain in sight. How ‘bout them apples?
Is Whiskey Okay for Passover? NO!
Whiskey – and all of its siblings, including bourbon, rye, scotch, spirit whiskey, single malts and all the rest – is made from wheat. Whether barley, rye, corn or wheat, that mash will not pass the Passover test.
Is Rum Okay for Passover? YES!
Why is this spirit different from all other spirits? Because the alcohol in rum is distilled from sugarcane, so you’re good with G-d. Mix up equal parts rum and cola, garnish with a lime, and have yourself a Judah Libre!
Is Tequila Okay for Passover? YES!
Hava nagila? Agave tequila! Tequila (and its smokier grandparent mescal) are made from agave, a succulent that is in no way a grain. Chag sameach! For a festive tequila cocktail, may we recommend a Painted Door Post? In a shaker filled with ice, shake up 1 part tequila, 2 parts blood orange juice, ½ part simple syrup and ½ part lime juice, then garnish with a slice of blood orange. A round of these and people will be doing the hora in no time.
Is Moonshine Okay for Passover? NO!
Oy vey. Enough of this narshkeit, you know it’s not.
Is Brandy Okay for Passover? YES!
Brandy is made from grapes, so break out the snifters! The bottle we’re most excited to pour this Passover is our Mouth-exclusive Germain-Robin Single Barrel. Germain-Robin is generally accepted as the best brandy in the world (presidents from Reagan to Clinton have kept private stashes of the stuff in the White House liquor cabinet), and we were lucky enough to get our own barrel with a custom blend of grapes, including Colombard, Sémillon, Pinot Noir, Viognier, Zinfandel and Chardonnay. Smooth and balanced, it’s simply one of the best things we've ever tasted. Truly, there’s no more memorable way to end a Seder than with a glass of this masterpiece. Dayenu.
Is Fruit Brandy Okay for Passover? YES!
Apple, cherry, peach, plum, pear…distill a fruit and we’ll drink it this week. That goes for watermelon, too – yes, watermelon brandy. But don’t go thinking this is a Jolly Rancher-inspired beverage. On the contrary, bubbeleh. This bottle is the product of 300 heirloom Charleston Gray watermelons, sourced from a Charleston, South Carolina, farm near the distillery. The melons are hand-juiced, and the distilled nectar rests for four months. The result? A lusciously juicy, rich, soft and creamy watermelon brandy that’ll have alta cockers reminiscing about Slivovitz…but not missing the stuff.
That's the whole hagaddah! So this Passover, get in the spirit with a different kind of spirit. You just might end up being the loudest voice at the table singing Chad Gadya.