How 'Mad Dog 20/20' Went From Kosher Wine To College Staple

When undergrads partake in weekend (or rough weeknight) celebrations, the constraints of a student's budget force them to procure the most affordable beverages available. Therefore it's cheap beers like Natty Lite and the discounted liquors collecting dust in the back of a neighborhood shop you'll often find at a dorm or frat bash. MD 20/20 is one of the boozy staples one can expect to spot at such a blowout.

An American fortified wine, MD 20/20 is known for its high alcohol content and brazen flavors, like Blue Raspberry and Electric Melon. It's also known for being incredibly affordable. Seldom costing more than about $5 a bottle, MD 20/20 allows the budget-conscious to acquire all the party favors one needs to have a cheap, good time. While it's beloved by some for its modest price and unique flavor choices, it's also known as an incredibly sweet potation that can be a bit much for some, particularly regular wine drinkers. While the university population may call this somewhat polarizing beverage "Mad Dog," that isn't actually what the "MD" in the name stands for.

From MD 20/20 to Mad Dog

Not long ago, Reddit users were stunned to realize that the "MD" in MD 20/20 doesn't stand for "Mad Dog." Past imbibers were so sure that it did, some claimed that the Mandela Effect was at work. It actually stands for Mogen David, an American wine company that was founded in 1848. Mogen David was for years known for producing Kosher wine made from at least 51% Concord grapes, like the kind made by Manischewitz. 

The company eventually moved away from just Kosher wine, and diversified its offerings; after World War II, Mogen David began selling a variety of fruit wines and champagnes. Precisely when Mogen David began selling MD 20/20 is difficult to pin down, but according to Press and Journal, in the 1970s, MD 20/20 accounted for over 50% of its total sales. The once modest company selling its beverage primarily to the niche market of observant Jews observing the high holidays, likely as a survival strategy, transitioned to selling its wine in a product that would appeal to a much larger demographic.

Not your sommelier's drink

Originally, MD 20/20 was so named because it was packaged in a 20-ounce bottle at an ABV of 20%. Today, they're primarily available in 750ml bottles at an ABV of between 13% to 18%, depending on the flavor. The brand is now also producing fizzy Spiked Punch varieties of their beverage, in a wide variety of flavors, including Tangy Orange and Island Pineapple.

Affordability and a high alcohol content relative to beer aren't the only reasons why MD 20/20 is popular. As well as being easier to lug around than a 24-pack, "Mad Dog" is a pre-mixed concoction, and doesn't carry the cost of traditional, expensive hard spirits, nor require any bar skills.

While a younger crowd might flock to MD 20/20, most wine connoisseurs wouldn't drink it if you paid them to. The bold, in-your-face flavors of Mad Dog lack the sophisticated complexities wine fanatics seek out, and the sugar content is overwhelming for those seeking subtle flavors. But because of its affordability and strength, this unique descendant of Kosher wine will continue to be enjoyed during celebrations by college students the world over.