Adulthood: when you stop dreading Passover Seders because you have to wait to eat, and start looking forward to them because of those famous four cups of wine. It’s National Wine Day today, giving us a great reason to raise a glass to Manischewitz, the sickly-sweet concoction that is, more often than not, the contents of those four cups.
Manischewitz is the wine version of a superhero’s sidekick: it’s well-intentioned, goofy, impossible to get rid of, and decidedly mediocre. In Manischewitz’s 128 year history, here are some of the strangest and most enchanting ways they and their devotees have tried to shake off that perception.
1) This 1962 radio spot
Aired on Bob Crane’s popular radio show – and featuring Crane as both a fanatical winemaker and the beleaguered blackberry salesmen who fail to impress him – this spot revolves around a heroic “man from Manischewitz” and his quest to find “big, luscious European blackberries” for the label’s Blackberry Wine. Let’s talk about situations in which you can say the words “big” and “luscious” repeatedly, in conjunction, and have people find your enthusiasm endearing, not creepy. They don’t exist, especially not for Bob Crane.
2) “Man O Manischewitz,” a Klezmer tribute
This is genuinely awesome music accompanied by a genuinely delightful video, but I found it difficult to relate to because Manischewitz wine generally makes me want to sleep, not gyrate with a fiddle on a windswept hillside.
3) The infectious “Mambo Shevitz”
Almost unbelievably, the company’s clunky-kitschy advertising slogan “man, oh Manischewitz,” inspired this danceable and apparently unsponsored tune from The Crows. “Man oh man that music, baby, dig that beat,” they sing, “like a glass of wine it’s so cool and sweet.” Oh, yes, like cough syrup, it is.
4) If Sammy Davis Jr. likes it, it’s cool
This is an advertisement for Manischewitz in which the undeniably cool Sammy Davis Jr. plays a less-cool French children’s song to try and sell some Manischewitz wine. It has “a kind of nutty taste, a kind of gentle taste,” he sings, a description that could be conceivably persuasive to someone with no prior concept of what wine tastes like.
5) And last, this Wikipedia persuasion
This is the actual photo, labeled “Bottle of Manischewitz,” used to illustrate the “Wine” section of Manischewitz’s Wikipedia page. This man is a hero. I’m still not craving Manischewitz.
If you’d like to learn more about Manischewitz’s surprisingly lively history, NPR published a useful examination of the wine’s popularity in April. And with that, happy National Wine Day to all.
Talya Zax is the Forward’s culture intern. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @TalyaZax