The Good, The Bad, and The Bubbly

During the last week of April I joyfully drove to Jersey to pick up Ryvka from the airport. She was returning from a 6 month stay in Bethlehem where she was doing research on the tourism industry (stay tuned for more on the political, economic, discursive, and environmental battles Israel wages on Palestinians under the guise of eco-tourism).  I wanted Ryvka to feel good coming back to the holy land of Brooklyn and I knew that a big part of that was going to be assuring her that good, fresh dairy exists here (even if not as prevalent or accessible as in the Middle East).  Luckily, there happened to be that very evening an Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn event entitled “Good Dairy.” After letting her nap for a bit, I escorted her directly to the most appropriate homecoming ever.

Stocking up on some delicious dairy goodies at Edible’s Good Dairy event.

Now one might assume that this is a post about dairy. That would be a fair assumption. However, this is actually about seltzer- a beverage that I’m not very passionate about but is very dear to the hearts of many of my loved ones. How are we making this transition? Well…upon arrival at the Good Dairy event, the first vendors we encountered were the charming gentlemen behind Brooklyn Gin. They were enthusiastic about their small batch locally distilled spirit and so were we. We thoroughly enjoyed the on-the-spot carbonated cocktail they were serving featuring their citrusy liquor. However, Ryvka pointed out to all of us that the origin of the seltzer maker they were using sadly was not such a pure or locally-based process. SodaStream, an Israeli company producing a do-it-yourself, countertop seltzer and soda maker, has been marketing its wares as a “green alternative” to soda cans and bottles. But SodaStream’s main production site is in Mishor Edomim, a settlement and industrial zone in the occupied West Bank, on confiscated Palestinian land. The company is participating in the theft of Palestinian land and exploits Palestinian labor while selling its product with a “Made in Israel” label.

Our new Brooklyn Gin friends were shocked to hear about the oppressive system of production behind their seltzer maker and were really receptive to Ryvka’s suggestion that they find another way to make their cocktails that aligns more with their vision for quality on all levels (taste and process).

Ryvka, being the thorough lady that she is, followed up with an email just the other day. She was excited to discover that there is an alternative to SodaStream that matches the local pride of Brooklyn Gin- Gomberg Seltzer Works in Canarsie, Brooklyn! Gomberg Seltzer Works is the last remaining seltzer factory in NYC and Ronny Beberman is the Brooklyn Seltzer Man. He’s 63 years old and still drives a wooden slatted truck full of vintage glass bottles. You can watch “Seltzer Works,” a documentary film about Gomberg Seltzer, at Rooftop Films on July 17th, and you can read a brief and entertaining write-up of this old school seltzer making and delivering operation here: http://reclaimedhome.com/2010/07/01/brooklyn-seltzer-delivery-how-old-school-is-that/

So…getting into Gomberg Seltzer Works is a way to divest from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and invest in the traditional liquid culture of Brooklyn.

Speaking of tradition, liquid culture, and seltzer…while I was home in Cincinnati celebrating the 20th anniversary of my father being the rabbi of his synagogue, I made up a little summer spritzer cocktail to loosen us up before diving into the 600 person dinner (at which the CEO of SodaStream was a surprise performer, being a dear friend of my family’s and the high holiday cantor of our shul. Oh the complexity of the universe). I don’t remember exact measurements but here’s the gist of it:

The Roaring Twentieth

1 oz Cointreau

1 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 generous bar spoon of mixed berry preserves

2-3 oz Sauvignon Blanc (or any available dry-ish white wine)

top off with seltzer

Shake all of the ingredients (except for the seltzer) with ice in a cocktail shaker. Then strain into a chilled wine or champagne glass and top with seltzer. Garnish with a lemon or lime twist. Then clink glasses and toast all to the people fighting the good fight to make food and drink not just delicious but ethical! L’chaim!

Cool as a cucumber

As you know, this week we are celebrating the birth of Ryvka, who in turn helped birth The Big Ceci.  (Yes – if you are paying attention you will be wondering exactly how long a week is with these people. The answer is: as long as it needs to be. Time is flexible and expansive around here.)

So today, I am toasting Ryvka with my recipe for a refreshing summer pitcher cocktail: The Cucumber Cooler.


Why this beverage? Because…

* Ryvka loves cucumbers – they are cool and refreshing like her.

*Ryvka loves people – this is a pitcher cocktail that serves many at a time (unlike many classic cocktail recipes that you have to make one by one, consuming the host’s attention for most of the evening).

* Ryvka loves me – she is my partner in life since the age of 11 and whenever I make something up like this she tastes things so deliberately and gushes with appreciation and pride in a way that makes me feel like a superstar.

Cucumber Cooler – a pitcher cocktail for the summertime

(Thanks to my co-pilot Naomi for lending her tendencies towards precision to the process of nailing this down. I think this is pretty close to what we decided…?)

In a cocktail shaker add:

  • 2 parts vodka
  • 1.5 parts apple juice (I used Fuji Apple Juice made by Red Jacket Orchards)
  • 1 part fresh lemon sour*
  • 2 parts cucumber puree
  • a dash of simple syrup*
  • ice

Shake vigorously then pour into a pitcher. Do this until the pitcher is full.  Stir it up and taste it. Mess around with the proportions if it isn’t sweet enough, strong enough, or cucumbery enough for your liking. Then place large ice cubes in the pitcher and a long bar spoon for stirring when people need refills. Note: larger ice cubes have less surface area so they melt slower, thus keeping the drink cool without diluting it as fast.

Place two regular ice cubes in each person’s glass and garnish with mint after the drink is poured in (mine is chocolate mint from my garden!).

* Simple syrup is aptly named. Just take 1 cup raw sugar and 1 cup water and in a medium saucepan combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool.

* Lemon sour is also very simple: Combine 1 cup fresh lemon juice and 1 cup simple syrup in a large jar with a lid. Cover and keep refrigerated.

So Ryvka! Here’s to you! May the deep love, radical visions, and creative comraderie you offer the rest of us be returned to you a thousand-fold. I raise my glass (or whole pitcher) to you – thank you for finding ways to enjoy this broken beautiful world completely while not being content with the way things are.

Meet Una – member of The Big Ceci family & a big fan of Ryvka.