From the Archives: Is that ‘Natty’ kosher? (Nov. 2010)

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Students deal with kashrut and drinking

By Melissa Moore

When people think of college students, they think wild partners – a red solo cup in the right hand and a fifth of vodka in the left. While this stereotype isn’t necessarily an accurate portrayal of the student body, kosher students who wish to partake in the debauchery can have a harder time participating.

For students in the Jewish community, keeping kosher prevents them from being able to drink certain types of alcohol.

Senior engineering major Nonnie Howarth explained the two biggest concerns with kosher drinking: ingredients and a lack of paganism (I’m not kidding).

Liquor and wine are the most likely to straddle the kosher/non-kosher line. Most beers, besides those with wild flavorings, are kosher.

“For example, with tequila, some comes clear and others come in gold,” said Howarth. “Because of how they color the tequila, you can’t just buy any bottle of the gold colored.”

While straight, tastes-like-nail-polish-remover vodka passes the kashrut test with flying colors, flavored vodka holds a yellow caution sign. The simple reasoning: the ingredients. The Jersey Shore Orthodox Rabbinate recommends consuming unflavored vodkas and liquors to get your kosher drink on. Wine, however, is problematic for reasons stemming far beyond kashrut. Because wine is considered a religious drink for Jews and gentile alike, some fear that non-Jews — using it for idolatrous purposes — could taint the wine Jews drink.

Because of this, there are strict laws vinters must adhere to for their wine to be considered 100 percent kosher: 1) No gentiles can handle the wine or 2) The wine must be boiled, meaning the wine cannot truly be used for pagan rituals (this makes the wine mevushal, or cooked in Hebrew), according to Jewish law.

Besides making it impossible for observant Jews to enjoy the delights of boxed Franzia, all alcohols derived from wine must also follow these strict rules.

And while it’s rather unlikely to find brandy at your average Knox Box rage, classier kosher students must of to great lengths to find kosher brandy, vermouth or cognac.

While some students understand these fairly esoteric rules, some say they simply don’t care.

“I know a lot of my friends wouldn’t necessarily check the label of a bottle for an OU or any label of kashrut,” said Etana Kenter, a junior marketing major who also follows this unwritten code. “They would be way more strict when it comes to food, and I don’t know if that’s just because they bend the rules or if it has just become this common sort of thing, but people are really lenient.”

Other students, such as junior finance major Marc Kramer, echoed Kenter’s sentiments.

“When I go out to eat with a group of friends I may not be able to eat a lot because we’ll go to a certain restaurant that I can’t eat at,” he said. “But in terms of alcohol, I will do what I want.”

Some students believe drinking non-skosher alcohol while keeping kosher is an individual decision, reflecting upbringing and personal beliefs.

Yet, keeping kosher requires work — a casual trip to the liquor store won’t appease the kosher needs.

“I know a lot of people whoa re really kosher have to go out to a lot of kosher butchers where they can make sure they get kosher wine,” said Kenter. “It is a little more inconvenient because local liquor stores don’t really sell kosher wine.”

And when it comes to partying with friends?

“If I go to a party that’s being thrown by kids who don’t keep kosher I will make sure that they have kosher alcohol,” senior psychology major Eli Bilmes said.

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