Brandon Phillips, bartender at the Duck Inn, had never tried gefilte fish before Drumbar's Gary Matthews challenged him to create a cocktail with the traditional Passover dish of poached ground whitefish. So he called a Jewish friend, who, Phillips says, "seemed surprised. He was like, you want to buy gefilte fish? Why?"
Phillips ended up going to Manny's to get the gefilte fish. He says the deli's version actually tastes pretty good, with "the texture of a matzo ball—it's very mild." He'd learned from his friend that gefilte fish is usually eaten with carrots and chrain (a beet and horseradish relish), and decided to make a cocktail that would incorporate all those elements. It's "very reminiscent of the traditional meal, in liquid form," he says.
He started by infusing the gefilte fish into slivovitz, a kosher plum brandy, blending the two together and cooking them sous vide before freezing the mixture overnight. After he separated the liquid from the fish meat and oil, he says, the result was "very intensely flavored slivovitz." Phillips says a syrup he made with chrain, cooking it with sugar and water and then straining out the solids, turned out surprisingly well: "It's sweet up front and then got this rich, kind of purple beet flavor with a nice spice on the back end." He also added Manischewitz Concord Grape Wine ("to stay traditional"), along with some lemon juice and a few drops of saline solution. He garnished the drink with a carrot ribbon.
"I wanted to do something that would be right at home in a Jewish household during Passover," Phillip says. "I definitely made a kosher cocktail. I'm not sure of all the rules, but I think it's kosher for Passover."
As for the flavor, you can taste the gefilte fish in the cocktail, he says. "I didn't want to mask it. That felt like cheating. It's definitely there and in force."
.75 oz lemon juice
1 oz chrain syrup*
1 oz Manischewitz Concord Grape Wine
1.5 oz Maraska Slivovitz infused with gefilte fish**
A few drops saline solution
Ribbon of carrot
Add all ingredients except carrot to a shaker with ice; shake and double strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with carrot.
*Chrain syrup: Combine ten ounces sugar and ten ounces water in a saucepan with one ounce of chrain. Bring to a boil and then fine strain.
**Slivovitz infused with gefilte fish: Blend one ball of gefilte fish with one bottle of Maraska Slivovitz. Vacuum seal and cook sous vide at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour. Chill in an ice bath, cut bag open, and fine strain through a coffee filter. Place liquid in a mason jar and freeze overnight. Strain again through a coffee filter.
Phillips has challenged Jacyara de Oliveira of Beatnik to create a cocktail with tomalley, "the disgusting green guts of lobsters."