Refreshing cocktails for a spirited Tu B’Av
Photo: Adobe Stockx
Killer Cactus

By Tina Wasserman

Tu B’Av is celebrated, especially in Israel, on the eve of the full moon. In many cultures the full moon represents love, romance and fertility. Although there are no mentions of the holiday in the Torah, it has many happy associations for the Jewish people. Many link it to abolishing the ban on tribal intermarriage. Other occurrences, not necessarily linked to love and marriage but cause for celebration, were also linked to this date. However, between the destruction of the second Temple and the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, Tu B’Av was never celebrated.

In ancient times the holiday was celebrated in conjunction with the wine harvest. Unmarried women would dress all in white and dance through the vineyards. Meanwhile, single men were encouraged to go to the fields and find their future wife.

Recipes abound for sweets but a refreshing alcoholic drink can encourage levity and passion as well as cool one off during the hot summer month of Av.

Here are a few with Jewish origins and one that represents Texas culinary star Stephen Pyles’ take on a refreshing but “killer” drink that would be welcome on the Tel Aviv beaches as well as in Dallas.

Sopi Di Bina —
Curaçao Wine Soup
(Adapted from ‘Recipes from the Jewish Kitchens of Curaçao’)

The Jewish community of Curaçao has been continuously in existence for over 350 years and Mikve Israel-Emanuel is the oldest, continuously operating synagogue in the Western Hemisphere. As in all Jewish communities in the Diaspora, cooking traditions from countries of origin mingled with the foods readily available to create new preparations that conformed to the Jewish dietary laws. The addition of prunes to the wine soup gives the liquid body and flavor that is more suggestive of their plum origins.

3 cups water

6 ounces pitted prunes (about 20)

1 cinnamon stick

4 tablespoons cornstarch

½ cup water

1 one-fifth bottle of Zinfandel or Shiraz wine

1/3 to ½ cup sugar, depending on sweetness of prunes  

1. In a 3-quart saucepan, bring the 3 cups water to a boil and add the prunes and cinnamon stick. Reduce the heat and simmer until prunes are soft. 

2. Using a slotted spoon, remove the prunes from the pot and reserve them in a bowl. Discard stick cinnamon and return saucepan with the liquid to the stove.

3. In a small dish, combine the cornstarch with the ½ cup water to make a smooth paste. Slowly add the cornstarch to the prune liquid, stirring constantly to combine.

4. Return the saucepan to the stove and reheat the liquid over moderate heat. Stir constantly until the liquid thickens.

5. Increase the heat to bring the liquid back to a boil and then add the wine and the sugar. Stir constantly until the sugar is dissolved. Add a little more water if soup is too thick. Return prunes to the soup and serve warm or refrigerate until ready to serve cold.

Serves 4-6 people.

Tina’s Tidbits:

• Cinnamon stick adds flavor to liquid without adding the grittiness that you would find using the powdered version.

• Cornstarch requires the mixture to come to a boil in order for it to thicken properly. Its use makes the mixture thicken clear compared to flour, which thickens a mixture opaque.

• Add 2 or more tablespoons of Curaçao liqueur to the soup after it is cooled to add a touch of orange, and the signature liqueur of the island, to your soup. 

Killer Cactus

Stephen Pyles created a strong, delicious, spicy drink for his restaurant that raised the bar for margarita-style drinks. He never shared the recipe, but after tasting it a number of times, I came up with a version that was very close to the original. This drink could make anyone dance in the vineyards and fall head over heels with someone wonderful!

Rum Mixture:

1 cup dark rum

1¼ cups medium or light rum

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup grated sweetened coconut

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 Serrano pepper, split in half lengthwise

2 cinnamon sticks

¼ cup crushed mint leaves

6 ounces frozen pineapple juice concentrate

¾ to 1 cup rum mixture (see above)

Ice to fill blender container

Superfine sugar as needed

1. Combine the first eight ingredients and allow to sit several hours or months in the refrigerator!!

2. When ready to make the drinks, empty FROZEN contents of pineapple juice concentrate into a 1-quart blender container.

3. Add the rum mixture and ice and blend until thick and slushy. Pour into glasses and serve. Enjoy!!

Tina’s Tidbits:

• The Serrano pepper adds a real kick to the drink without feeling like it is burning your mouth. That’s why I call it “Killer”! You may omit if you wish but I would hope that you would rather use half a pepper than omit it.

• Jalapeño may be substituted for the Serrano.

• Cinnamon stick is called for instead of ground cinnamon to prevent that gritty feeling you would get from the powder form, plus the sticks can stay in the mixture for a long time without degrading.

Sangria de Curaçao

If there was any question about the migration of culinary traditions throughout the Diaspora, one only needs to look at the subtle differences in the classic Spanish Sangria and this version that incorporates the spices and fruits readily available in the Caribbean. These drinks are refreshing even if you are not looking for your future spouse! 

1 cup water

¾ cup sugar

2 sticks cinnamon

1 750ml bottle red wine, Shiraz, Zinfandel or Burgundy

2-3 limes

¼ teaspoon nutmeg 

1. Combine the water, sugar and cinnamon sticks in a 1-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook over moderately high heat for 5 minutes or until the bubbles get larger and slower. Remove from heat and cool until warm.

2. Remove the zest from two of the limes in long thin strips. Cut all of the white pith and peel away and discard.

3. In a large pitcher combine the sugar mixture, wine, two peeled whole limes, zest and nutmeg. Let it steep, covered, for a number of hours or overnight.

4. To serve, remove the limes and add 1 cup hot water and the juice from one of the limes. Taste. Add more lime juice if necessary. This will depend on the fruitiness of the wine you use. 

5. Serve in 4-6 ounce glasses. Serves 8-10.

NOTE: If you prefer a variation, oranges may be used as in Spain.

Tina’s Tidbits:

• This is unusual in that it is served warm as is the custom in Curaçao. You may, however, omit the warm water and just chill the mixture until ready to serve.

• Combining water and sugar and bringing them to a boil creates a Simple Syrup. The advantage to this mixture is that the drink is not gritty because the sugar is permanently dissolved and incorporates completely into the drink.

• Equal parts of water and sugar, minus any additional flavoring, may be made in larger quantities and kept chilled in the refrigerator until needed. I often add a few drops of rose water or jasmine oil to the syrup when it is cool and then add it to fruit puree before I make sorbet or just drizzle over some fresh berries before serving. Flavor the syrup with as much flavoring as you like but not too much for it to overpower the flavor of the fruit.

Leave a Reply