The mazel tov cocktail

From the Washington Post on the 7th, “Actually, the Mazel Tov cocktail is real. And it’s delicious” by Maura Judkis, beginning:

In what will be perhaps the last great moment of comedy this presidential campaign season has given us, Donald Trump surrogate Scottie Nell Hughes of criticized Jay Z after the rapper performed in Cleveland on Friday in support of Hillary Clinton.

“One of his main videos starts out with a crowd throwing mazel tov cocktails at the police,” said Hughes, referencing the “Run This Town” video.

Except: The explosive is called a molotov cocktail. “Mazel tov” [more or less literally, ‘good luck’] is a celebratory phrase in Hebrew — something you say when a baby is born, or a happy couple gets married. It’s not the first time a Republican has confused the two terms — when Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was a county executive, he wrote “molotov” as a greeting to a Jewish constituent. So while Jewish people were laughing at Hughes’s malapropism, everyone else began to wonder: What is a mazel tov cocktail … ?

Judkis’s piece goes on to explain the mazel tov cocktail, and I’ll get to that. But some readers were made uneasy by these mazel tov / Molotov eggcorns, with their mixture of Judaism, Russian communism, and bomb-throwing protestors (like cartoon anarchists).

As I said, only half in jest, on Facebook:

Enough with the bomb-throwing Jews!

making explicit reference to the popular image of bomb-throwing Jewish Communist revolutionary anarchists, as in this political cartoon in the Literary Digest of 10/18/1919:


(Note the cartoon bomb. More on this below.)

On anarchism, from a long and detailed Wikipedia entry:

Anarchism is a political philosophy that advocates self-governed societies based on voluntary institutions. These are often described as stateless societies, although several authors have defined them more specifically as institutions based on non-hierarchical free associations. Anarchism holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful. While anti-statism is central, anarchism entails opposing authority or hierarchical organisation in the conduct of all human relations, including, but not limited to, the state system.

Anarchism does not offer a fixed body of doctrine from a single particular world view, instead fluxing and flowing as a philosophy. Many types and traditions of anarchism exist, not all of which are mutually exclusive. Anarchist schools of thought can differ fundamentally, supporting anything from extreme individualism to complete collectivism. Strains of anarchism have often been divided into the categories of social and individualist anarchism or similar dual classifications. Anarchism is usually considered a radical left-wing ideology, and much of anarchist economics and anarchist legal philosophy reflects anti-authoritarian interpretations of communism, collectivism, syndicalism, mutualism, or participatory economics.

I have a number of anarchist friends and acquaintances, most (but not all) of them Jews. They’re “intellectual anarchists”, pacifistic idealists but committed to protest and political action (though not to violent overthrow of the government).

But historically, there was a violent brand of anarchism. From Wikipedia:

Anarchism and violence have become closely connected in popular thought, in part because of a concept of “propaganda of the deed”. Propaganda of the deed, or attentát, was espoused by leading anarchists in the late nineteenth century, and was associated with a number of incidents of violence. Anarchist thought, however, is quite diverse on the question of violence. In the name of coherence some anarchists have opposed coercion, while others have supported it, particularly in the form of violent revolution on the path to anarchy. Anarchism includes a school of thought which rejects all violence (anarcho-pacifism).

That’s one ingredient. Another is the fact that a few prominent theorists of Communist ideas — Karl Marx in particular — were Jews. Another is the commitment of many Western intellectuals (some of them prominent Jews) to Communism as a social and political ideal (in particular, “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs”). The final ingredient is a very long-standing, deep, and passionate anti-Semitism in the West, nurtured especially by Christian churches of all kinds, justified popularly on the grounds that the Jews killed Christ and that they are, always and forever, aliens in whatever land they settle in, and dangerous aliens at that (giving us highlights like Isabella’s driving the Jews from Spain, along with the Moors, in 1492; the ghettos and pogroms of the Slavic lands; and Luther’s ravings against the Jews). The resulant stew is the toxic mess sometimes labeled Jewish Bolshevism; from Wikipedia:

Jewish Bolshevism, also known as Judeo-Bolshevism, is an antisemitic canard which alleges that the Jews were at the origin of the Russian Revolution and held the primary power among Bolsheviks. Similarly, the Jewish Communism theory implies that Jews have been dominating the Communist movements in the world. It is similar to the ZOG [Zionist Occupation Government] conspiracy theory, which asserts that Jews control world politics [see also the Protocols of the Elders of Zion]. The expressions have been used as a catchword for the assertion that Communism is a Jewish conspiracy.

Now, the Molotov cocktail. From Wikipedia:

A Molotov cocktail …, also known as a petrol bomb, bottle bomb, poor man’s grenade, fire bomb (not to be confused with an actual fire bomb) or just Molotov, is a generic name used for a variety of bottle-based improvised incendiary weapons. Due to the relative ease of production, Molotov cocktails have been used by street criminals, protesters, rioters, gangsters, urban guerrillas, irregular soldiers, or even regular soldiers short on equivalent military-issue weapons. They are primarily intended to set targets ablaze rather than obliterate them.

… The name “Molotov cocktail” was coined by the Finns during the Winter War. The name was an insulting reference to Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov, who was one of the architects behind the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact signed in late August 1939. The pact with Nazi Germany was widely mocked by the Finns, as was much of the propaganda Molotov produced to accompany the pact, including his declaration on Soviet state radio that bombing missions over Finland were actually airborne humanitarian food deliveries for their starving neighbours. The Finns sarcastically dubbed the Soviet cluster bombs “Molotov bread baskets” in reference to Molotov’s propaganda broadcasts. When the hand-held bottle firebomb was developed to attack Soviet tanks, the Finns called it the “Molotov cocktail”, as “a drink to go with the food”.


All of this so far is background to why the confusion of mazel tov and Molotov might make someone edgy. Clearly inadvertent, but does it betray an implicit association of Jews with bomb-throwing Russians?

Hard to tell. There seems to be an astonishing amount of clueness ignorance around (people who genuinely seem not to get that there might be something suspect about calling someone, say, uppity or a kike or a gook), but on the other hand, there’s a lot of feigned clueless ignorance, too, and a ton of unconscious prejudice, so I’m not willing to just dismiss the matter out of hand.

On a somewhat lighter topic, compare the Molotov cocktail in #2 with a classic cartoon bomb (and look back at #1):


On such bombs, here’s the TV Tropes discussion, which I quote at length because I find it both informative and entertaining:

If you ask a person to draw a bomb, this is probably what you will get: a spherical black object about the size of a bowling ball with a fuse sticking out of it. Sometimes it may have the word “Bomb” (or “Boom”) written on it in bold letters. Very common in cartoons and comic books, and somewhat surprisingly in the relatively new medium of video games.

This actually has a basis in history: Before the mid-19th century, contact or proximity fuses for detonating explosive payloads had yet to be developed. The only means by which an explosive shell or bomb could be feasibly detonated from a distance was by a slow-burning match cord. In Western militaries, these weapons often took the shape of an iron sphere with a match cord sticking out of one end, and the Cartoon Bomb actually is a realistic representation of such ammunition. The resemblance to cannonballs is not coincidence; they were often designed to be fired out of cannons, or rather carronades, mortars or howitzers. (The “bombs bursting in air” from the traditional US song “The Star-Spangled Banner” were of this variety.) A skilled bombardier could estimate how long it would take for the bomb to fly to the assumed target and cut the fuse to appropriate length so that the bomb would explode exactly at the desired moment.

Early hand grenades also took this shape, as did mortar bombs. In fact, the “pineapple” grenades used by Soviet, Franco-British Commonwealth, American, etc soldiers during World War II were variations on this type of bomb. There were only three major differences. They included a built-in fuse lighter for convenience. (That’s the handle-and-pin assembly made famous by the Pin-Pulling Teeth trope.) They were oblong, and they had grooved skin so that they would fragment more easily and disperse shrapnel. (That’s why they’re called “frag” grenades.)

As Cartoon Bombs generally tend to appear in cartoons and comics, they usually tend to not do any serious damage – at least to characters. They may cause damage to their inanimate surroundings, but usually the worst a victim within the blast range suffers is Clothing Damage and Ash Face, both of which are usually healed by the next scene. As a result, when a Cartoon Bomb is seen in a work, it tends to be more of a slapstick prop as opposed to a deadly weapon. Despite these bombs being very old-fashioned, they’re prominently used in many video games, since the black-ball with sparky fuse is very iconic and quickly recognized by players.

And, finally, back to the mazel tov cocktail, in Judkis’s WaPo piece:

there has been a Mazel Tov cocktail on the menu at DGS, a Dupont Circle modern delicatessen, for several years. Partner Brian Zipin invented it when the restaurant first opened.


Drink ingredients: Averell Damson plum gin liqueur, or good qualiy sloe gin; fresh lemon juice; chilled champagne or white sparkling wine; lavender syrup; ice. Celebratory rather than incendiary.

One Response to “The mazel tov cocktail”

  1. La linguistique qui blogue. Novembre 2016 – La pensée du discours Says:

    […] “One of his main videos starts out with a crowd throwing mazel tov cocktails at the police,” said Hughes, referencing the “Run This Town” video. Lire la suite […]

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