Growing up in Brooklyn, my parents had a bar. Purchased through the Macy's catalog, it was a small octagon end table that opened up into a place to store bottles and glasses. Though they were quite proud of their swanky addition to the avocado green sofa they had purchased the year before (covered in the requisite plastic), their spirit collection left much to be desired.
I still remember the contents: a bottle of Wild Turkey (used mostly for toothaches); Cherry Heering; Creme de Menthe; Gordon's gin; some Dutch chocolate liquor in a fancy ceramic bottle; and a few bottles of Manischewitz Wine.
The Manischewitz was consumed mostly during holidays and family get-togethers, like Passover and Hanukkah. My family would drink the sweet elixir from small cordial glasses and I would get a glass of grape juice. Once, after much begging, I was given a sip of the kosher wine. It tasted exactly like what I was having -- cloyingly sweet and grapey, with a hint of tartness.
At some point, more drinkable kosher wines were introduced and Manichewitz became the laughingstock of the beverage world as something that only your bubbe drank. The wine, made from Concord grapes (the same as in your garden variety Welch's jelly) and added corn syrup or cane sugar (yes, there's added sugar in this wine), never achieved any "so square it's hip" cred (although there's this):
Still, after over 60 years, it's still the best selling Kosher wine brand in America, probably because it has a traditional place at every Jewish table during the holidays.
But, is there a better way to drink your grape? The Schmaltz Brewing Company thinks so. Their Rejewvenator 2014 (8% ABV) is brewed with a combination of Abbey and Trappist Belgian ale yeast and European lager yeast. Then, the juice of New York Concord and California Merlot grapes are infused into the beer and fermented for several weeks. The result is a Belgian-style Dubbel ale and Doppelbock European-style lager with distinctive fruity notes.
Happily (or sadly), the beer is not a deep purple hue. Instead, it's a nice amber color. Although I hesitated before drinking the Rejewvenator, possibly having a little grape juice flashback, the beer is surprising. It starts with a creamy caramel flavor and finishes with hints of dried apricot and raisin. It's a refreshing and modern twist on a bottle of sweet kosher wine.
It should be noted that the Rejewvenator is not actually brewed with Manischewitz and never mentions the kosher wine on its bottle. But you just know the brewers were going for the comparison and the nostalgia. At about $6 for a 22 ounce bottle (available at Whole Foods Market), it's absolutely worth picking up a few bottles for the family. Who knows? Maybe mixing grape and grain is the start of a completely new Hanukkah tradition.
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