Passover is just around the corner and we’ve been invited to multiple Seders. Now we just need to decide which one we want to go to. This is usually determined by an intricate look at the interpersonal politics of where we were during Rosh Hashanah, who’s attending which Seder, and—my personal favorite—an in-depth analysis of who makes the better gefilte fish.
Sometime in the early years after I finished university, I was invited to Passover Seder at my aunt’s house. Innocently, I asked if I should bring something. Dessert, parve. No problem. There’s a plethora of recipes on the internet and I found one for a cake that that seemed suitable. I didn’t own a round cake dish so I bought a pretty one with the thought of leaving it at my aunt’s house as a hostess gift. I’ve seen my mother do the same thing a million times whenever she’s asked to bring a casserole or a side dish. So, pretty cake dish in hand, I left the mall, satisfied that I had a nice hostess gift.
After the Seder, when I was helping my cousin with the cleanup, as I handed him the freshly dried dishes, he scoured the cupboards for more room among piles of cookware. As I saw him stack my cake dish among a pyramid of others, I realized that my aunt really doesn’t need another cake dish. Or a casserole dish. Or a serving bowl.
If we had been invited to Seder dinner,
And not brought another piece of bakeware
Dayenu, it would have been enough! Dayenu!
I didn’t think much more of it until a few holidays later, when, once again, I found myself invited to my aunt’s house for the holiday dinner. As the holiday neared, I searched the mall for a nice hostess gift, because in today’s consumeristic world, that’s what I’ve been taught to do. I remembered her massive collection of cookware and after hours of searching, I returned home empty handed.
I don’t remember when the idea struck me, but I’m glad it did. I make a mean coffee liqueur, which is always a hit. I made my aunt a batch, bottled it nicely (in a recycled glass bottle), tied it with a pretty bow and added a recipe card with a few mixed drink ideas.
After dinner, my aunt happily uncorked my liqueur. We poured it over our cake, vanilla ice cream, mixed it with cream, and even mixed it with milk and cola (it’s called a Colorado Bulldog, and it’s really yummy!). The drink was a hit—everyone enjoyed it and commented on what a great gift it is.
Ever since that successful holiday, I’ve passed on buying traditional gifts and opted for the homemade, drinkable type. Nicely bottled, tied with a ribbon and a card with mixed drink recommendations, I’ve never got a single complaint and people seem delighted for an original, tasty gift that doesn’t require them to find more room in the cupboards. And as for me—
If they enjoy a nice homemade liquor,
And I have not to shop for hostess gifts
Dayenu, it would have been enough!
Easy Coffee Liqueur
¾ cup instant coffee (Simpler coffees are better—fancier coffees don’t make a better liquor)
4 cups (800 ml) water
2 cups white sugar
2 cups dark brown sugar
½ cup dark cocoa powder (optional)
5 cups (1 liter) vodka (40% alcohol)
2 Tbsp. vanilla extract (Splurge for the good stuff—the imitation vanilla flavoring leaves a weird after taste)
Boil coffee and water.
Add sugar and mix until fully dissolved.
Add up to ½ cup dark cocoa powder, based on taste (optional), and mix well.
Turn off the heat and let cool to room temp.
Add vodka and vanilla extract.
Mix well and bottle in glass bottles.
Yields about 1.8 liters.
Alcohol content between 18-22%.
Mix well before serving, especially if adding cocoa powder.
Store at room temperature.
Holds for about a year (although if you haven’t finished drinking it before then, you’ve done something wrong!).