Morocco is one of the hottest destinations these days, both literally (it’s hot!) and in its cultural allure. Your mind might wander directly towards North African spices, but the country has something much sweeter to offer. Mahia, a local drink popular among the Jewish population, wants to carve out a spot in the international spirit arena.
This eau de vie is a clear brandy made from figs or dates with the addition of aniseed. As the Moroccan Jewish community gradually moved away to countries like Israel, Canada, and The United States, Mahia’s availability and production became an unintentional secret. David and Dorit Nahmias of Nahmias et Fils are trying to spread the word.
“Prior to us releasing our Mahia, most never heard of it unless they grew up in Morocco or heard of it from their parents or grandparents (Jewish or Muslim),” said David, Master Distiller. “Even people who traveled to Morocco most likely were not introduced to Mahia, as it is not readily available in places frequented by tourists.”
Founded in 2012 in Yonkers, New York, Nahmias et Fils distills and distributes Mahia and whiskey. With the more familiar whiskey balancing out the novelty of Mahia, the company has managed to thrive as the audience for Mahia grows.
“As we are the sole producers of Mahia in U.S., it is a long road to introducing a new spirit category,” said David.
With a distillery just north of New York City, Nahmias et Fils’ Mahia has garnered interest from urbanite mixologists and earned shelf space in some large liquor stores in the Northeast. Depending on your state’s regulations, you can have a bottle of Mahia shipped to you. Once it arrives, you can enjoy the drink’s floral notes with fruity accents. The fig flavor comes through without overpowering the other elements and, since no sugar is added, the mahia never feels too sweet.
“My family distilled Mahia in Morocco for generations,” said David, referring to the 117-year-old recipe he uses. “Basically, I wanted to revitalize the tradition of making Mahia and introduce it to the world.”
Typically enjoyed as a digestif or on festive occasions, Mahia has no problem being the star of the show. As it enters a new era of consumption, however, Mahia’s uses are expanding within the culinary and mixology worlds. Here’s a fall-friendly cocktail to get you started (and here are some others that range further afield).
Black, White, and Fig Jazz
(Created by David Nahmias & Kimberly Nagel, Nahmias et Fils, Yonkers, NY)
- 2 oz Nahmias et Fils Mahia
- 4 oz apple cider
- a squeeze of lemon juice
- 1 tbsp sugar
- ½ tbsp black pepper
- apple slice to garnish
Method: Stir ingredients in cocktail shaker. Rim glass with black pepper and sugar. Serve over ice. Garnish with an apple slice.
To serve warm: Bring apple cider to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the Mahia and lemon juice. Serve in a toddy glass or mug.