Look up "holiday cocktails" and most of what you will find, understandably enough, is geared toward Christmas—eggnog and glogg and other names that require the entire Scrabble supply of Gs. Not that these drinks have anything to do with the birth of Jesus, but through tradition they have become associated with yuletide celebration.
But why no famous Hanukkah cocktails, I wonder? Is this just one more area where the Jewish festival of lights, which begins this evening, is overshadowed by that other, more elaborate and widely celebrated December holiday?
Don't get me wrong—I love eggnog and hot chocolate spiked with peppermint schnapps, but they don't go very well with potato latkes. Hanukkah needs its own distinctive drinks. So whatever the reason for the beverage deficit, I say we remedy it. Here are some contenders, one for each of Hanukkah's eight nights:
1. Smithsonian associate web editor Brian Wolly agreed to share his "super-secret" recipe for his favorite Hanukkah quaff, Manischewitz Sangria. Considering the kosher wine's notorious sweetness, this seems like a natural use for it:
3 parts Manischewitz (any varietal will do, but Concord grape is the classic) About half a shot of brandy per serving 2 parts Dole pineapple-orange juice 1 part lime juice 1 part lemon juice 1 part seltzer water
Cut up apple, grapes, limes, lemons, oranges and put them in punch bowl. Pour wine and juices on top. Add seltzer shortly before serving.
2. Or you can class it up even more, with a Manischewitz Sangria Martini, courtesy of the Houston Chronicle. They billed it as a Passover beverage, but I see no reason it couldn't work equally well for Hanukkah.
3. In the running for best name is the Mazel Tov Cocktail, which is tinted blue—the traditional color of Hanukkah—by Blue Curaçao, a tropical liqueur that is decidedly not traditional for Hanukkah.
4. The Menorah Martini takes a similar route, adding an equally nontraditional garnish of blueberries (which, at this time of year, you'll probably have to get imported from Chile)
5. Hanukkah Gelt Martini: Inspired by the gold foil wrapped chocolate coins, called gelt, given out at Hanukkah, this simple martini combines potato vodka (to go with the latkes, I suppose) and Goldschlager cinnamon schnapps, which has flakes of 24k gold floating in it. To add more of the flavor of the coins, add a drop of Godiva or another brand of chocolate liqueur.
6. The Dreidel: Your head may be spinning after too many of these cocktails, which include Slivovitz plum brandy, cherry liqueur, Angostura bitters and egg whites.
7. Although not technically a cocktail, Schmaltz Brewing Company's He'Brew ("The Chosen Beer") comes in several varieties, including Genesis Ale, Messiah Bold, and Rejewvenator.
8. And for dessert, try the Sufganiyah, inspired by the delicious jelly-filled donuts that are a traditional Israeli Hanukkah treat. It includes raspberry and grape flavored vodkas, Chambord raspberry liqueur and cream.