For reasons unknown, among the carbonated beverages most commonly served at a synagogue kiddush is the reliable and undeniable Ginger Ale. This recurring refreshment can be found at synagogue kiddushim across the country even though there is nothing inherently or particularly Jewish about Ginger Ale. While some thirsty kiddush attendees drink Ginger Ale only as a last resort, such parched people usually find themselves falling back in love with Ginger Ale and wondering why they do not more often inhale the ale.
Ginger Ale typically is made by mixing carbonated water, sugar and, of course, ginger, a flowering plant with a flavor-filled root stem. Ginger Ale is not the only carbonated beverage that is derived, in whole or in part, from a plant or vegetable. Root beer is made using the root bark of a sassafras tree, birch beer is made using the bark of a birch tree and sarsaparilla is made using sarsaparilla vine. Cel-Ray soda, made by Dr. Brown’s, is celery-flavored and, as legend has it, Cel-Ray soda was once referred to as “Jewish Champagne.” Similarly, it would make sense to refer to chopped liver as “Jewish Pâté,” brisket as “Jewish Filet Mignon” and gefilte fish as “Jewish Caviar.”
It is peculiar that the average Jew does not regularly keep Ginger Ale in the house and yet the average synagogue has it in no short supply. In fact, after seltzer and tonic water, Ginger Ale probably is among the most regularly-served soft drinks at a synagogue kiddush. However, given that most Jewish parents want their children to become physicians, shuls probably should serve Dr. Pepper and Dr. Brown’s on a regular basis. (Cautionary note: for a fleishig kiddush, synagogues probably should not serve Cream Soda because it sounds milchig.)
Admittedly, most people do not crave Ginger Ale and some merely tolerate it because it is carbonated. Once a bottle of Ginger Ale loses its fizz, it becomes as unappealing as a piece of matzah the day after Passover.
It is possible that synagogues serve Ginger Ale at kiddush because of its alleged health benefits and medicinal powers. For example, some say that Ginger Ale can alleviate or reduce indigestion. That may be true but if you are running around a kiddush wolfing down plentiful plates of cholent, kishke and kugel, then chasing it all down with a small plastic cup dose of Ginger Ale is not going to cure your ailing stomach. A better remedy would be to eat less but telling a Jew to reduce kiddush consumption is about as futile as telling a workaholic to relax or telling a pachech to stop complaining.
Ginger Ale also allegedly helps with motion sickness but even if that is true, NASA is not serving Ginger Ale when training astronauts. In addition, Ginger Ale is rumored to help with seasickness but Navy SEAls do not carry Ginger Ale-filled canteens.
It is somewhat strange that the average kosher restaurant does not offer Ginger Ale. If this beverage is so popular at synagogues, then why isn’t it ubiquitous at all fine (and not-so-fine) dining establishments? Truth be told, you are far more likely to find Ginger Ale in a bar, especially since it is used in a variety of mixed drinks such as the Gin Buck, Horse’s Neck and Peachy Keen. If you serve Ginger Ale in a bucket, you should call it Pail Ale and if you drink too much Ginger Ale, it becomes Ginger Ail.
Canada Dry Ginger Ale is a special type created in the early 1900’s by John J. McLaughlin, a Canadian chemist and pharmacist. The “Dry” in “Canada Dry” refers to the beverage’s relative lack of sweetness, similar to a dry wine. If you enjoy such Ginger Ale and deadpan jokes, then you have a Canada Dry sense of humor.
There are many soda brands and types that sound more Jewish than Ginger Ale. For example:
1. TAB, a diet cola, sounds like an acronym for a yeshiva, e.g., Torah Academy of Brooklyn (TAB);
2. Mountain Dew sounds like the perfect place to recite Tefillat Tal;
3. Schweppes sounds like a Yiddish word to describe a schmendrick who is a crybaby;
4. Crush sounds like a beverage that a chatan drinks under the chuppah before stepping on the glass;
5. Sprite contains the word “spite” and thus sounds like a fitting beverage for warring and petty machatunim;
6. Seven-Up sounds like a reference to what a gabbai does during the Torah reading when giving out the aliyot (not including maftir); and
7. Fresca contains the word “fres” so it sounds like the ideal beverage to serve to “essen and fressen” congregants.
Final thought: If you carefully and cautiously poured someone a glass of Ginger Ale, then such pouring was done “ginger”ly. If you purchased your Ginger Ale directly from the manufacturer, then you paid the wholes”ale” price.
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