By Victoria Dwek
Whenever I visit my in-laws for Shabbat, my father-in-law will tell my husband, “Go look in the wine cabinet and see if there’s a good bottle there for you.”
In the weeks and months after Purim, there may very well be plenty of good bottles in there (not so in December . . . but we check to see if anything magically materialized in there anyway). We’ll open some and the whole table will appreciate it. By the summer, though, the good bottles are gone, and what’s left are the bottles of liquor and other drinks that look pretty but no one really drinks. Where do those bottles come from?
The nature of mishloach manos has changed over the last ten years. I think that it’s a nice thing that we’re putting so much effort and creativity into this mitzvah. As long as we remember one thing: Do our recipients really want to eat or drink this?
I’ve been guilty in the past of spending way too much time decorating cupcakes that look pretty but are stale by the time they’re delivered. Today, I think long and hard about including items in my mishloach manos that my recipients will really enjoy. (Think: Will they really eat this? Or am I including it because the color matches my packaging? Some of those colored candies taste really bad.)
“In the old days, you gave someone something they wanted and appreciated, preferably something they’d appreciate on Purim, like a kugel and a bottle of wine,” says Mordy Herzog, executive vice-president of Royal Wines. “In all of Boro Park, there’s probably less than ten bottles of Captain Morgan Rum sold all year. All of a sudden, come Purim, all those whose children are dressed up as pirates want to buy Captain Morgan Rum. But the person receiving it doesn’t need it; it means nothing to them. All these miniatures . . . who really drinks them?”
Yoli Huss, from Wine on 59 in Monsey, is in tune with what his clientele really wants to receive. “You want to give people something they’ll appreciate. A nice bottle does that. Whether for mishloach manos or if you’re going to a friend or mechutanim for Shabbos, simply add something along with the bottle. It’s less work than assembling a package of tchotchkes that no one really appreciates . . . much of which will go into the garbage before Pesach.”
Can you guess what some of the bestsellers are before Purim?
I asked some wine store owners and learned that pineapple Smirnoff is popular. That’s because the label on the bottle is yellow, and that seems to be a trending color in mishloach manos. In second place is green apple Smirnoff. Because it’s delicious? That’s not why. Because the label is green. It matches!
“Most miniatures cost between $2 and $4. They’re too little to drink, but it’s too much to throw away . . . and ends up being a waste of time, money, and space. You can get small bottles of wine in that price range that people will drink for sure. For a little bit more, you can get a large bottle of wine. I don’t know why people don’t want to include wine in mishloach manos when that’s what people really want!” says Moshe Mayer of Williamsburg’s Wine Cave.
Mr. Herzog continues, “So many of us buy things no one needs, because we feel good when someone opens the package and says, ‘Ooh, it’s so pretty.’ Do we want our recipients to enjoy, or show that we’re able to be crafty and creative? It’s Purim. It’s a wine yom tov. Not a Smirnoff yom tov. Esther threw a mishteh ha’yayin, a feast of wine. When we give wine, 90% of the time it’ll be used and enjoyed and consumed.”
I know that it’s not affordable to give everyone on our list a nice bottle of wine, but we all make a few nicer mishloach manos for the people to whom we want to show extra appreciation. For them, it’s worth your extra effort to find out if they like and enjoy wine (or like serving wine to their guests). If they do, there’s nothing they’ll appreciate more. And they will certainly appreciate it much more than that green apple Smirnoff. And if I’m on your list, then wine will certainly be appreciated as well.