RECIPE: Knacksot and Tonic from Menno-Nightcaps

It is a rare snack food that doubles as a floor polish. The sunflower seed, however, is one such versatile morsel. Though we know that Mennonites began cultivating and snacking on sunflower seeds sometime in the 19th century, we don’t know exactly when our ancestors discovered that spitting the shells onto the wooden floors of their houses oiled the wood and gave the floors a pleasant shine. Not a lot of Mennonites will admit today to continuing this tradition, though there is still plenty of love, especially among the Manitoba and some Latin American Mennonites, for Knack-ing sot (that’s Low German for cracking the shells between your teeth and simultaneously eating the seeds while spitting out the husks).

Several crafters of cocktails have produced libations that honour the sunflower, but these tend to reference the big yellow flower itself, and ignore the little seeds that we love so much. Like the other sunflower cocktails, this one features elderflower liqueur for the floral bouquet. In other ways, it is much like a gin and tonic.


2 oz (60 mL) gin

1 oz (30 mL) elderflower liqueur

Tonic water to top

An orange wedge to garnish

1 bag of roasted sunflower seeds


Pour the gin and elderflower liqueur directly into an old-fashioned glass. Add ice. Top with tonic water and stir. Gently squeeze a bit of orange juice from the wedge into the beverage, and then use the wedge as a garnish. Grab a handful of sunflower seeds, and alternate knacking sot with sipping, being careful that only the shells end up on the floor.

From Menno-Nightcaps: Cocktails Inspired by that Odd Ethno-Religious Group You Keep Mistaking for the Amish, Quakers or Mormons, copyright © 2021 by S.L. Klassen.