Jews are not big drinkers. Maybe it’s because kishke and cocktails don’t mix. Maybe it’s because we’re too neurotic to kick back with a six-pack. Or maybe it’s because we know our mothers would kill us if we made a drunken spectacle of ourselves. Whatever the reason, many Jews will choose milk over a martini every time. But on Purim that all changes. Purim is the one time a year we drink like fish and dress like floozies. On Purim, every Jew is a Girl Gone Wild.
This year that’s even more true, as Erev Purim lands squarely on the other big drinking holiday, Saint Patrick’s Day. Those of us who happen to be both Jewish and Irish should just go ahead and ask for March 18 off right now, because we’re going to have hangovers the size of Hibernia.
Well, it’s a mitzvah. Purim is the one holiday on which we are actually commanded to get good and sloshed. In recognition of the role Esther’s excessive wine parties played in Haman’s downfall, we are encouraged to drink excessively ourselves. The Talmud instructs us to drink until we do not know the difference between “Cursed be Haman” and “Blessed be Mordecai.” Maimonides argues that this means “one should eat meat… and drink wine until he is drunk and falls asleep from drunkenness.” In other words, if you eat a corn dog, drink a few wine coolers, then pass out on the couch, you’ve fulfilled your obligation.
It’s a classy commandment, all right. To make matters worse, the mitzvah of getting drunk actually applies to the day, and not the night, of Purim. Top of the morning, indeed. But that doesn’t mean the holiday has to be a meaningless bender. There is, rabbis insist, a spiritual component to all this cocktailing. Drinking allows us to transcend our normal limits of comprehension, they say, and elevates us to a higher spiritual plane. Sages note that the numerical values of “Cursed be Haman” and “Blessed be Mordecai” are the same. When we get drunk enough to confuse the two, rabbis said, we see that both are part of the same divine plan, that there is good in everything.
But beware, indeed Purim may be a n apt time to take a tip from the Buddhists: everything in moderation. Purim can lead to problems when people who aren’t used to drinking are encouraged to drink way too much. Worse, that drinking is often done on an empty stomach, as Purim immediately follows the Fast of Esther.
If you plan on overdoing it, you can save yourself a trip to the hospital by taking a few safety measures. Get a good base of food in your stomach before you hit the booze. Drink plenty of water, eat plenty of hamantashen, hand your car keys to a sober friend, and know your limits. As a final precaution, wear a really great costume, so your fellow synagogue members won’t know who that is taking a nap in the shrubbery.
If you play your cards right, you should emerge happy and hangover-free. And if you don’t, at least you’re in good company. We’re convinced that the very first shalokh moness was a bottle of 7Up, a packet of Saltines and a handful of aspirin. So drink up. L’chaim!
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Man, oh Manischewitz. Almost too sweet to drink straight, it makes a fantastic sangria. Olé!
1 bottle Manischewitz
1 orange, thinly sliced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 lime, thinly sliced
1 liter club soda
Sugar to taste
1. In a large pitcher, combine wine and sliced fruit. Refrigerate overnight.
2. Just before serving, add club soda and sugar. Mix well and serve.
Guaranteed to get you completely f-kakte.
1 shot vodka
1 shot tequila
1 shot rum
1 shot gin
2 shots sour mix
1 shot cola
1. In a large glass, combine all ingredients and mix well. Add ice if desired.
2. Serve with a straw and a warning to take this one slow.
Substitute slivovitz for tequila and the South of the Border beverage becomes an Eastern European treat. Na zdrowie!
1-2 shots slivovitz
8 ounces orange juice
2 teaspoons grenadine
1. In a highball glass, combine slivovitz and orange juice over ice and stir.
2. Tilt glass slightly and gently pour grenadine down the side of the glass, letting it settle at the bottom.
You’ll go ape for this banana-flavored concoction.
2 shots light rum
1/2 shot crème de banana or banana liqueur
2 shots coconut cream or half and half
1. Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend at medium-high for 15 seconds or until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, or if you just prefer a frosty treat, you can blend in some ice.
2. Transfer to a chilled glass, garnish with a cherry and a cocktail umbrella, and serve.