David and Dorit Nahmias are singularly dedicated to sharing their love of the fig with America. That’s why they launched Nahmias et Fils (www.nahmiasetfils.com) in Yonkers, so they could produce mahia, a traditional Moroccan eau de vie. The strong, clear fruit brandy is the result of fermenting California figs and is enhanced with a touch of anise. Because the generations-old recipe is so simple, the quality of the fruit is vital. “Good figs, good mahia,” proclaims David, who grew up in the small Moroccan town of Taznakht, watching his family brew the drink while keeping alive a Jewish tradition of artisan spirit-making in that country. Mahia was “made by Jews and enjoyed by everyone,” he claims with a discernible nostalgia that permeates the décor of the small distillery (which is open for tours). A large, old photo of his father oversees the proceedings, and everything is clearly done to live up to the standards of that man.
Despite strong ties to the past, the Nahmias’ real goal is to put mahia on the map now. Mahia is sold throughout the New York area and beyond, even popping up on cocktail menus across the US. (At-home mixologists should try Casablanca Lover’s Lemonade—mahia, lemonade, ice, and a swirl of aged balsamic vinegar, suggests Dorit.)
Nahmias et Fils also makes a rye from New York grain called Legs Diamond, after the local bootlegger. And a regional apple brandy is in the works.
So how does mahia taste? Taking a sip is like a swallowing a ray of warm Moroccan sunshine. Could that be the fermented figs talking? Sure, but it’s true nonetheless.