Today the Manischewitz Negroni is Drink of the Day for the first night of Hanukkah. Starting with Thanksgiving a few days ago, we plan cocktail guidance for the major events of holiday season. Hanukkah is early this year so we’re off to a good start. December will feature Festivus, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Eve.
Hanukkah or Chanukah is an eight-day celebration about the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Historians are still sorting it out, but according to legend Jews rose up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors in the Maccabean Revolt. It’s complicated, but when you get down to it the eight-day event is about one days worth of lamp oil lasting for eight. Trust us, eight full days are helpful if you don’t want to just pour the Manischewitz down the drain. Anyway, we could all use a Hanukkah cocktail, but we advise lighting the candles before you’re ferschnickert.
Manischewitz began as a matzo producer in 1888 when Rabbi Dov Behr Manischewitz left Russia and landed in Cincinnati. He died in 1914 but his sons took over the company and expanded significantly, moving beyond matzo and extending into soup and other kosher foods.
In the mid-1940s Meyer Robinson was making small quantities of kosher wine under his own brand, Monarch. He realized that for him to expand the well-established Manischewitz name would be a marketing winner. That led him to negotiate a still valid 99-year license agreement. That license is now held by Constellation brands, one of the largest U.S. importers of beer, wine and spirits.
The wine itself is more a tradition than something anyone wants to drink. Sure, it may have been blessed by a rabbi, but wine reviewers don’t follow. It’s usually found on the bottom shelf of your local supermarket or liquor store display, and a bottle will set you back around $5-7. Don’t worry, there’s no need to consult your Wine Spectator app on vintage.
To Constellation it’s not exactly a brand they’re looking to grow; it doesn’t even get a marketing budget. Of course retailers sing its praises. As BevMo notes on their website: “This sweet and fruity wine is bursting with the essence of fresh Concord grapes. Its crisp acidity balances the sweetness and up-front fruit aromas.” Yeah, right.
Let’s face it: the stuff tastes like boozy Welch’s Concord Grape Juice and is enough to give wine lovers or bartenders tsuris. That’s why we step in with the Manischewitz Negroni.
The Manischewitz Negroni
Like most things in life, Manischewitz wine can be improved with liquor. We’re not sure who first figured it out, but enterprising bartenders realized that Manischewitz could be used instead of sweet vermouth in a variety of classic cocktail recipes. That leads to such things as the Meshugenah Margarita and the Manischewitz Negroni. And, of course, you could just mix up the simplest of all, a Manischewitz Manhattan.
Different bartenders have different specs for their creations. It’s mostly used in Mr. Potato Head fashion as a swap for whatever sweet ingredient was in a drink. Proportions get adjusted to manage the low alcohol content of the wine, and further mods may be called for to offset the wine’s sweetness.
The Manischewitz Negroni recipe we present here was reported in the SFWeekly as a drink served at a “1st Annual Reboot Shop Hanukkah Pop-Up” event in San Francisco. It’s a happy member of the family of Negroni variations. Developed by Matthew Wyne, it’s a bit of a cross between a classic Negroni and a White Negroni as it swaps out the more bitter Suze for Campari. It is pictured here with the Starship Yentaprise.
- Add all ingredients to your trusty mixing glass.
- Add ice and stir to chill.
- Strain into ice filled Old Fashioned glass
- Light candles.