A few months ago, Alana Newhouse invented the world’s greatest cocktail. This, dear readers, is not an assertion or a claim open to discussion. It is a hard, incontrovertible fact.
The cocktail, for reasons too convoluted to explain but that have something to do with this article, is named the Chuckles, and it consists of Tito’s vodka; the juice of half a lemon; and, sometimes, some ice. It may sound simple. It isn’t. The power of the Chuckles is so great that even Liel Leibovitz—a cantankerous whiskey man who formerly esteemed vodka the simple son of the spirit world—was converted.
But while Chuckles is the world’s greatest cocktail and Tito’s is the world’s greatest vodka (again, fact), Tito’s is, alas, not kosher for Passover. As a public service, then, we set out to find the best Chuckles made with potato vodka for your holiday drinking pleasure.
We tried four bottles: LiV, made in Long Island, New York; Chopin, straight outta Poland; Karlsson’s, the pride of Sweden; and Boyd & Blair, hometown Glenshaw, Pennsylvania. We also experimented both with lemons and, for the benefit of those who like things a bit sweeter, Meyer lemons. We tasted the vodkas straight, and then with each one of the lemons, all in search of the perfect Pesach Chuckles. (There’s very little we won’t do for our readers.) Here are the results:
The Winner: Boyd & Blair vodka with lemon. The vodka has a tremendously appealing grape smell, and a mild flavor that suggests slightly more civilized rye. Still, it’s properly present, with a body that commands the mouth and makes its flavors known right away. Add regular lemon, and you get a wonderful one-two punch: First a thudding base of delicious vodka, and then a stab of tartness. A delight.
The Runner-Up: Karlsson’s vodka with Meyer lemon. Sipping the vodka by itself, we were unimpressed: We found the initial nose much too perfumey, and the taste had undertones of acetone that sent us for the nearest cup of water. But add the sweet Meyer, and all that perfuminess lifts up in one wonderful, liquid, alcoholic popsicle.
Honorable Mention: Chopin vodka with Meyer lemon. This, too, is underwhelming vodka—bitter, we thought, like husks of grain—transformed by the assertive sweetness of the Meyer lemon. This drink is like an ugly guy in a gorgeous suit, which is to say, imperfect, but somehow a boost to one’s faith in humankind.
Local shoutout: LiV. “It’s much too perfumey for me,” said Lawrence native Newhouse, “but that’s Long Island.” Mad props to this big and loud vodka, even if we wouldn’t want to drink it very often.
Finally, if, like us, you’re fortunate enough to know Maya Benton, curator at the International Center for Photography and dear friend of the magazine, you might score a bottle of her stellar, home-made, horseradish infused vodka, more delicious than any liquor you’ll drink this year and more potent than four glasses of wine.
So how do you make a Chuckles? Simple. Using a reamer—a cheap and magical bar tool you simply must have, which lets you obtain not only a lemon’s juice but also its pulp—extract the juice of one lemon into a cup. Add four shots vodka, and ice if necessary. Mix; drink; recall the Exodus. Apparently, it will actually help.