The joyous cry of "L’Chayim!" is a familiar one to the ears of Jews all over the world. At any Jewish Simcha, whether it’s a Bris, Bar Mitzva, Chassana (wedding), engagement, anniversary party or other, you can find corks popping, champagne flowing and schnapps glasses raised high in honor of the event. What better way to enhance the joy of that special occasion? In addition, of course, is our traditional connection with wine to all holidays and Shabbos. Wines of all flavors and colors appear at Shabbos tables weekly and Yom Tov tables throughout the world, while a great variety of liquor and liqueurs dress the kiddush tables at Shuls in every Jewish community. As with most edible products on the market today, alcoholic beverages can have their share of headaches for the kosher consumer. For example: vermouth, sangria, champagne, sherry brandy and cognac, as well as some liqueurs and cordials, all require reliable supervision as they are wine-based or may contain wine as an actual ingredient. Therefore, it is incumbent upon all kashrus observant Jews to understand the nature of alcoholic beverages and realize the potential problems to the kosher consumer. In order to realistically understand the kashrus issues of liquors, we must first know how the various liquors on the market are produced. All organic material that contains starch and sugar can be converted into alcohol by a process called "distillation". Distillation is the process of purifying the liquid part of a mixture by a series of evaporation and condensation. Practically speaking, grapes, fruits or grain are most frequently used in this process. Once the material to be used is determined, the combined sugar and yeast will cause "fermentation". Although in the case of grapes, we have a natural liquid, sugar and yeast content; this complete combination is lacking in grains. As a result, grain must be "malted" in order to convert the starch in the grain to sugar. Since alcohol vaporizes faster than water, we can separate the ethyl alcohol from the liquid base by heating or "distilling" it. In order to determine the potency of a particular brew, we "proof" it. Originally this process included mixing it with gunpowder and igniting it. Fortunately today, a hydrometer is used instead to measure the brew. An important utensil in the making of beers and other alcoholic beverages is the "still". While in the past pot stills were widely in use, today, for economic reasons, the "continuous still" has mostly replaced them. The continuous still is a giant apparatus in which the main component is a tall, (sometimes several stories high), himneylike, metal container. Stills separate the alcohol from the water in the distiller’s beer by vaporizing the alcohol content. The spirit produced by this still is known in American whiskey-making as "low wines".
All unflavored vodkas are recommended. Due to the many
problems of non-Kosher ingredients often found in flavorings (such
as wine, civet, ambergris etc.), any flavored vodka needs proper
Hashgachic approval or thorough investigating into each source and
All unflavored light rums are recommended. Dark rums and spiced rums
need to be checked for the possibility of wine used as a coloring
agent. As with all foods containing flavoring, flavored rums need
Tequila is produced from the agave plant. Check carefully in the
bottle. If it does not contain a worm (commonly placed in the
tequila bottle), it is always acceptable.
Brandy always contains wine and therefore must bear a
Cognac is a grape brandy from France. It always requires
Sherry is made from wine. It needs reliable Kosher certification.
Vermouth is made from white wine, and therefore, must have reliable
All domestic and German beers (light and dark in color) are
acceptable to the Kosher consumer without certification. The
exception to this is any flavored beer. As is true with all
"flavoring", a reliable certification is required. Imported dark
beers are questionable as to their reliability (some may contain
grape by-products). Imported unflavored light beers are all