Cook | Purim cocktails celebrate holiday in indulgent style

While dressing up, acting out Purimspiels, making noise and listening to the story of how Queen Esther and Mordechai defeated Haman are for all ages, one holiday tradition is strictly for adults: drinking alcohol. Various sources advise us to imbibe until we cannot distinguish the difference between a curse on the evil vizier Haman’s name and a blessing on the Jewish hero Mordechai’s.

Some do suggest drinking only a little bit more than you usually do or indulging only enough to fall asleep, since when you are asleep you can’t hear the difference between the two names.

These days moderation and designated drivers are advised, but many of us still take a sip or several to celebrate the Jewish victory, perhaps from a bottle of schnapps or whiskey after the Megillah reading. These cocktails are a little fancier. Think of them as your tipples in Purim costumes.

Two of the drinks are named after the ancient Persian city of Shushan to mark the extra day of fighting that the walled city endured. The Shushan Sunrise is nonalcoholic and uses grenadine syrup, a pomegranate-flavored sugar syrup available in liquor stores and other markets. The Shushan Sunset features pomegranate liqueur. Both were made with fresh lemonade from the supermarket’s refrigerator section.

Pomegranate liqueur is also featured in the Queen Esther Champagne cocktail. Crown Queen Esther by dipping the rim of a Champagne flute in lemon juice and then in sugar or powdered sugar before mixing the cocktail.

Vashti’s Venom has a bit of a bite from the bourbon, a bit of sweetness from the cherry cola and a bit of sharpness from the vermouth, giving the drink qualities I imagine Vashti must have had to attract and anger a king. Substitute cola for cherry cola if desired.

The popular apricot jam–filled hamantaschen cookies were the inspiration for the Hammered Taschen.

Cookie crumbs on the glass rim and apricot nectar help re-create the flavor of the three-cornered pastry, an Ashkenazi favorite for the holiday.


Shushan Sunrise (Nonalcoholic)

Serves 1


1 Tbs. plus 2 tsp. grenadine syrup

1 cup lemonade, chilled

mint leaf, optional

Fill 12 oz. glass with ice. Pour 1 Tbs. grenadine syrup over ice. Add lemonade. Stir. Drizzle remaining syrup over top. (Do not stir.) Garnish with mint leaf if desired.


Shushan Sunset

Serves 1


1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp.

pomegranate liqueur

1 cup lemonade, chilled

mint leaf, optional

Fill 12 oz. class with ice. Pour 1 Tbs. of the liqueur over ice. Add lemonade. Stir. Drizzle remaining liqueur over top. (Do not stir.) Garnish with mint leaf if desired.


Queen Esther

Serves 1

1 tsp. pomegranate liqueur

Brut Champagne or sparkling wine, chilled

3-4 pomegranate seeds, optional

Pour liquor in bottom of chilled Champagne flute. Fill glass with Champagne. Float seeds on top as garnish if desired.


Vashti’s Venom

Serves 1


1 Tbs. bourbon

1 tsp. sweet (red) vermouth

1 cup cherry cola, chilled

maraschino cherry (optional)

Fill 12 oz. class with ice. Pour bourbon and vermouth in glass. Stir. Add cherry cola. Stir gently. Garnish with maraschino cherry if desired.


The Hammered Taschen

Serves 1

2 vanilla wafers

1 Tbs. lime juice plus extra for rim

1 Tbs. triple sec

1 Tbs. peach schnapps

2 Tbs. vodka

3 Tbs. apricot nectar


Crush cookies into a very fine powder. Dip rim of chilled martini or other cocktail glass in lime juice and then in cookie powder. Set aside. Combine 1 Tbs. lime juice with the triple sec, peach schnapps, vodka and apricot nectar in cocktail shaker. Fill with ice. Shake well and strain into prepared glass.

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. Her columns alternate with those of Josie A.G. Shapiro. She blogs at Contact her at

Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. She blogs about her food at Contact Faith at