Passover, which began yesterday, brings with it a slew of dietary laws on top of the already existing kosher rules that observant Jews follow. The food restrictions of this yearly holiday that is different from all other holidays are, of course, interpreted in various ways based on geography and denomination and other factors. But regardless of how they’re assessed, they’re a lot to take on—no leavened bread!—and can be a burden for those who enjoy, for instance, that most prized of Jewish delicacies: bagels. (Matzah brei is perhaps a legitimate substitute for the week or so that Passover lasts, but no longer.)
But there is at least one great advantage to following a kosher-for-passover diet—or just consuming certain kosher-for-passover foods. That is the fact that high fructose corn syrup is (for reasons we don’t need to get into here) not kosher for Passover, and so many companies will make products that use cane sugar as a substitute to comply with Jewish dietary law. This is highly preferable since high fructose corn syrup is—by most accounts—processed and not very good for you.
Take Coca-Cola, which makes a kosher-for-Passover Coke that is marked by its yellow cap. Coke is a great drink, no doubt about it, but there are several soda aficionados who feel that it’s too … artificial. That’s why so-called “Mexican Coke,” which is made with cane sugar, is a hot commodity on the sarsaparilla circuit. But in place of Mexican Coke, every year around this time—if you’re lucky enough to find it in your local grocery store—you can get your hands on a bottle (or six) of kosher-for-Passover Coke and live it up. A few years ago, The New Republic did a taste test and determined that the kosher version with cane sugar was indeed better than the original. It was, the magazine determined, “richer,” while the original had a “thinner quality.”
Kosher-for-Passover Coke is probably the most popular item that abandons high fructose corn syrup for the holiday. But there are others to get in on, including Fox’s U-Bet, the classic chocolate syrup that is best used in egg creams (try one at Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, if you haven’t).
And while wine is O.K. for Passover—as long as it’s kosher, naturally—a slew of liquors also use cane sugar. As Noah Rothbaum of The Daily Beast points in this handy primer on kosher-for-passover alcohol, Distillery No. 209 in San Francisco, for example, makes vodka and gin that uses cane sugar as a base instead of wheat, so you can get soused without resorting to slivovitz, which is exceptionally—and often unbearably—strong.
So, prepare yourself for a week of cane sugar if you’re the kind of person who can’t stand high fructose corn syrup. And if you feel so inclined, stock up, because these items comes around but once a year.