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For Heaven’s Sake, and Other Drinks

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Topic: Alcohol, Kosher

In honor of Purim, here’s a bunch of questions about kosher alcohol. L’Chaim!

Jeff Sokolow wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

In your view, would a hechsher (kashrut certification) be required for sake (Japanese rice wine)? It is my understanding that sake is distilled from fermented rice in much the same way vodka is distilled from potatoes. I would assume the answer is therefore no, unless some non-kosher ingredient were to be added in the distilling process. Thank you and best wishes.

RGalert wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

Is Tequila Kosher? How can I get a list of kosher alcoholic beverages?

Aharon Goldman from Jerusalem wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

Is there any way to get information on kashruth of various alcoholic drinks? In particular I’m interested in Southern Comfort, Khalua, Drambuie, Cointreau.

Richard Eden wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

What is it that makes wine kosher? Do similar rules apply to other alcoholic beverages? Are beer and spirits either kosher or non-kosher?

Dear Jeff Sokolow, Rgalert, Aharon Goldman and Richard Eden,

The London Beth Din publishes a list of kosher foods, including liqueurs and alcoholic drinks. I checked the list and found the following:

The only sake they list as kosher is Hatsukuru sake. At the time of writing, they certify the following types of Tequila Souza as kosher: Conmenerativa, Gold, Hornitos, Silver and Tres Generacione. According to their list, Cointreau is kosher only if produced in France. Southern Comfort is kosher only if produced in Ireland. Drambuie is kosher. Kahlua is now *NOT* kosher.

Wine has a uniquely strict status due to its use in religious ceremonies. All wines without kashrut certification are non-kosher.

Regarding kosher beer, the following is adapted from an article written by Rabbi Tzvi Rosen for Kashrus Kurrents:

Most U.S., Norwegian, English and German beers are acceptable. Stouts, flavored beers and "Barley wine" require certification, as do European, Asian, and other beers about which there is insufficient information regarding their contents.

Beer is normally made from all kosher ingredients: Water, barley, yeast, and hops. Isinglass finning (made from ground tropical fish), gelatin, and other ingredients are sometimes added to remove dark particles from the beer. Caramel color is sometimes added for coloring. In all, United States law allows over fifty-nine chemicals or additives to be used in beer.

Gelatin and isinglass clarifiers are not used in domestic beer in the United States. Isinglass finnings have been used as a beer clarifier in the UK for centuries. Over two hundred years ago the great Halachic authority Rabbi Yechezkel Landau in his work Nodah B’Yehudah permitted isinglass clarifier (Yorah Deah, Siman 26). A clarifier only filters unwanted particles and is not present in the final beverage.

Fruit flavorings and spices are used to make flavored beers. By U.S. law, these beers must be labeled "Flavored Beer." Flavored beer definitely requires kosher certification.

"Barley wine" is a specialty beer which definitely needs kosher certification, because it is sometimes fermented with non-kosher wine or champagne yeast.

Obviously, the kashrut status of a product changes with changes in production methods or kashrut supervision.

Jeff Sokolow < [email protected]> responds:

I appreciate your taking the time to check. One question: Does the fact that this one brand of sake is the only one the London Beth Din lists mean the other brands are not kosher, or just that this is the only one they have checked out? In broader terms, is there a reason why it would be necessary to investigate or certify the production of sake when there is apparently no need to do the same for whiskey or vodka?

Dear Jeff Sokolow,

I don’t know the London Beth Din’s criteria. They do, in fact also list vodkas and whiskeys. On the surface, there seems no reason to suspect sake of being non-kosher, but food technology has become complicated. I suggest you write to the OU <[email protected]>. They are the largest kashrut organization in the world. They also have a web site listing kosher products.

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