Passover is the most widely celebrated Jewish holiday. That means tons of Jews have sat there as I have, identifying with the suffering of my ancestors but thinking no torture of Pharaoh could’ve been as brutal as this sweet, sticky, gross Manischewitz we’re forced to drink four times and dab on our napkins 10 times.
There’s a hack for that.
Upstate Vodka in, sensibly enough, upstate Charlotteville, New York, fifty miles west of Albany, makes a special-batch limited edition vodka specifically for Passover. All of their vodka is kosher but what makes this one K for P is that it’s distilled from apples. According to the company, every bottle contains 80 apples from local New York farms, a region known for some of the tastiest apples in the world.
“Macerated, distilled, and bottled under one roof, Upstate Passover special edition has a unique light crisp mouth feel and is certified gluten-free.”
I don’t care about the gluten, because I’m going to be pounding tons of matzoh for eight days and most matzoh, made from barley, oats, rye, spelt, or wheat, is packed with gluten. (There are non-gluten matzoh options available these days.) But I’ve tasted Upstate’s normal award-winning vodka, which is also Apple-based, although not kosher for Passover, and it’s excellent.
How you like them apples?
Vodka is ordinarily distilled from wheat or potatoes, but the company says its commitment to apples is not just a gimmick to ditch the grains that Jews must avoid during the celebration of their liberation from Egypt. “Apple vodka tends to be somewhat smoother with a slightly sweeter finish than grain vodkas,” says Sauvage, the company responsible for Upstate.
Press play to hear a narrated version of this story, presented by AudioHopper.
And while all vodkas — in fact, all distilled spirits of any kind— should be free of gluten, facilities that use grain run the risk of contamination. If you’re one of the seemingly growing numbers who are extremely sensitive to even traces of gluten, you might be better off with drinks created in a 100% gluten-free distillery. Upstate has earned the ultra stringent “gluten free certification” from gfco.org for its efforts in this regard.
With its clear notes of apple and unusually creamy mouth feel, this 80-proof vodka a good candidate for drinking straight or just with ice, even if you ordinarily enjoy your vodka with a fruit drink like I do.
There’s still time to place your order before Pesach begins on Friday, April 15. If you order two bottles, the company will waive the shipping charge, though I have to note that I did not have the easiest e-commerce experience with the Sauvage website.
My advice: hide the afikomen in your neighbor’s backyard so you have plenty of quiet time to enjoy this holy treat as you recline and dip twice and eat bitter herbs.