Rye Delicatessen's Shtetl Bunny: A geschmack drink of the week
Kelly Moritz Don't let Slivovitz scare you off Rye's Shtetl Bunny
Chopped liver, corned beef, and craft cocktails? When you're at Rye Delicatessen, bellied up to the bar and hankering for something boozy with your pastrami and rye, just say yes. Even the steady barkeep Dale, a self-professed "Schlitz and Jägermeister" man, seemed mildly surprised when we selected a mixed drink to whet our whistle while excavating cheese curds from a plate of poutine. If this seems all wrong, allow us one word, one element, that will transport the cocktail from swank lounge to right at home in this most Jewish of delis: Slivovitz.
In the category of "don't knock it till you try it," the spirit base of Rye's signature Shtetl Bunny is Slivovitz, the oft-maligned Eastern European brandy made by fermenting crushed plums and their pits. Having never experienced it outside of a shot glass and a bout of instant regret in college, it was a must-sample. With no shaking, stirring, or fanfare of any sort, each element was dumped in a refreshingly unceremonious way into a wine goblet: Cointreau and cranberry and lemon juices poured over a hefty few fingers full of the strong stuff.
For liquor with a hard-to-love, paint-thinner-flavored reputation, the first taste was mellow, sweet, and tart, like a full-bodied and slightly syrupy Cosmopolitan. Sipped between bites of gravy-soaked French fries dotted with morsels of Montreal-style smoked meat, it began to taste downright healthy. Likely a result of layering rather than mixing, the Shtetl Bunny got sassy as the goblet emptied out, imparting a final kick to the shorts with a soothing, boozy afterglow, as warming as Bubbe's embrace after she's slipped a nip of brandy into your warm milk. To life! To Slivovitz! We're ready to convert.