By Charles Dubow
“Have you ever had a Hanukkah cocktail?” asked Christine Short, the bartender at New Milford’s popular tapas restaurant Zaragoza. “That’s because they don’t exist. You think of Christmas and you think of egg nog, Champagne, and all sorts of great drinks. But for Hanukkah there’s nothing. I want to change that.”
This year the holiday falls on December 22, at the height of the Christmas rush and Short is working to create a series of Hanukkah-themed cocktails that will incorporate such flavors as cinnamon, chocolate, apple and berries found in traditional dishes like Sweet Noodle Kugel, Sufganiyot (jelly donuts) and Hanukkah gelt (the chocolate coins given to children). “I’m going to be working for the rest of the year to come up with the perfect drinks,” she says. “And not just drinks but also think of tapas with a Jewish twist: brisket, latkes, lox, bagels even. It’s going to be amazing.”
Such creativity comes naturally to Short, who has worked in restaurants across Litchfield County for many years. “I love applying my knowledge of cooking and pastry-making to cocktails,” she says. What makes her drinks special is her use of local botanicals that she obtains either foraging on her own or working with New Milford’s Twin Star apothecary. She has invented 28 original cocktails featured on Zaragoza’s menu, including such popular concoctions as the Lavender Lush and the Mimi. “I’m like a mad scientist,” she says. “I love coming up with these cool combinations that no one’s ever thought of.”
Permission to repost from Litchfield Magazine’s holiday issue.