Chamar Medina is a special drink in that locale which can substitute for when wine or grape juice is necessary. Which drinks are included in that category is described below. Additionally, it is relevant to many specific areas of halacha and for the nuances in each topic see the respective page: Kiddush#If_there_is_no_wine_or_grape_juice, Havdalah#If_there_is_no_wine_or_grape_juice, The_Meals_of_Shabbat#Wine_for_Kiddish, The_Four_Cups_of_Wine#Chamar_Medina, Three_Weeks#Meat_and_Wine, and Nine_Days#Eating_Meat_and_Drinking_Wine.
What is Chamar Medina?
- Chamar Medina includes beer or cognac and does not include soda, lemonade, or water. Sephardim hold that coffee, tea, orange juice can not be used as chamar medina. Chamar medina is still relevant today.
- According to Ashkenazim, juice, coffee, or tea could be chamar medina, while milk or oil are not.
- One may not use soda because soda isn't considered Chamar Medina.
- Shulchan Aruch O.C. 296:2 writes that one may make Havdalah on beer if it is Chamar Medina or other drinks besides for water. Birkei Yosef 296:3 clarifies that the Shulchan Aruch's language of "or other drinks" didn't mean to include milk and oil, but rather he meant other types of Chamar Medina and exclude water even if the people of the town only drink water. Sh"t Igrot Moshe 2:75 rules that soda is just like water, isn't Chamar Medina, and thus, can not be used for Havdalah. Sh"t Vayan Avraham (Izrael) Siman 34 (pg 63) writes that he remembers in the holocaust the question arose whether lemonade could be used for Havdalah and he concludes that it just like water and can’t be used for Havdalah. Yalkut Yosef 296:8 writes that one may not use coffee, tea, orange juice, or soda for Havdalah, but one if there's no wine in the city, one may use beer or cognac which are considered Chamar Medina; Chazon Ovadia, Hilchot Shabbat, Chelek 2, Page 408 specifies that coffee, tea, milk, and fruit juice are not considered chamar medina, and therefore one may not make havdalah with them. More sources can be found in Yabia Omer OC 3:19 for this approach.
- Rav Chaim Kanievsky in Kovetz Teshuvot 1:57 asked Rav Elyashiv whether a sick person could recite havdalah on tisha b'av on wine or chamar medina. Rav Elyashiv responded that they should use beer or another drink. Rav Chaim responded that the Chazon Ish thought that nowadays nothing including beer is chamar medina since wine is so common and even orange juice he was hesitant to allow using it as chamar medina.
- As for the definition of chamar medina Mishnah Brurah 272:24 says that even beer is only permitted in a place where it is a common drink. Mishna Brurah 272:25 prohibits the use of milk or oil, and Mishna Brurah 272:30 permits the use of liquor. Rav Avigdor Neventzahl in Biyitzchak Yikare footnote 25 says that according to Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach milk is not allowed even in places where it is commonly used like Switzerland. He also says that juice, tea, or coffee maybe permitted but soda is definitely not because it is just like water. Rav Moshe Feinstein in Iggerot Moshe OC 2:75 defines chamar medina as something you would serve to guests who you want to show respect to. Tzitz Eliezer 8:16 and 14:42 allows using coffee, tea, or milk as chamar medina when there is no wine available. Igrot Moshe 2:75 says that in an extenuating circumstance tea or milk could be used as chamar medina.
- Sh"t Igrot Moshe 2:75 rules that soda is just like water and can not be used for Kiddish. Rav Avigdor Neventzahl in Biyitzchak Yikare 272 fnt. 25 agrees.