Written by Rabbis Eli Gersten, Yaakov Luban and Moshe Zywica of the Orthodox Union
When sitting with co-workers in a non-kosher restaurant, can I order beer or whiskey?
Although there is no concern of bishul akum with beer or whiskey, the Gemara (AZ 31b) relates that Chazal enacted a separate prohibition of drinking beer in a non-Jewish bar or restaurant, for fear that this type of socialization may lead to intermarriage. According to Shulchan Aruch (YD 114:1), this prohibition applies to all varieties of beer and also includes whiskey and other alcoholic beverages. However, Rama disagrees and maintains that Chazal only forbade beer made from dates, which was the most common variety of beer at the time the prohibition was enacted. According to this view, other than date beer, there is no restriction on any other alcoholic beverage.
There is a disagreement among later poskim whom we follow in practice. Do we adhere to the Shulchan Aruch that it is forbidden to drink any intoxicating beverage in a non-Jewish establishment, or do we accept Rama’s leniency that only date beer is forbidden?
The Chochmat Adam (66:14) adopts a middle ground: it is acceptable to follow the lenient position of the Rama, but nonetheless, a ba’al nefesh (literally, a person of soul, which means a person who is religiously inspired) would follow the more stringent opinion of the Shulchan Aruch.