We brought you the Ultimate Guide to Eating in Israel, but let’s get real. As a couple, we comprise a bartender and a freelance writer – so we’re quite partial to a decent tipple. One of our favourite things to do in new cities is seek out fun bars and new concoctions to try. Thankfully, Israel did not disappoint! So, we would be remiss if we did not also bring you this: the Ultimate Guide to Drinking in Israel.
What To Drink in Israel
No one really knows what’s in it, so you know it must be good. Tubi is a citrus-based spirit, apparently, but it tastes like a mixture of lemon pips and metallic earth, watered down with methylated spirits. We sampled it in Tiberias on our Day 7 road trip. We couldn’t decide whether we liked it or not, but we suspected that if we had more than one we’d end up really liking it, and we’d never make it back to Tel Aviv. Proceed with caution.
Arak is the ubiquitous anise liqueur sold everywhere in Israel. We tried it several ways: we did shots with the locals at Mozner bar on Day 7. It’s stirred into interesting cocktails, like the Almond Arak we sampled at Port Said on Night 2. We loved arak oranges (creative name for arak mixed with orange juice), as recommended to us by a bartender in Ein Gedi. We would never have thought to mix it with orange juice if not for that guy’s recommendation! Try as you might, you won’t be able to avoid arak while in Israel, and you’ll end up drinking plenty of it. If you can’t beat ’em…
Israeli (Kosher) Wine
We were hesitant to commit to buying a full bottle (which is very unlike us), but still very curious to try Israeli wine. We finally got our chance when offered a bottle with our complimentary buffet dinner on Day 5 in Ein Gedi. It was a little on the sweet side, but it went down well. I’m not sure we’d buy any back home (but we are very spoiled with Australian wines) – still definitely worth a try.
My mother recommended this traditional Israeli liqueur before we left, and asked that we bring back a bottle for her. We managed to pick some up in a liquor store, but we couldn’t find it in any bar, anywhere at all! (And believe me, we tried a few!) We sampled it with her upon our return, and it is hecking delicious. Like a Jaffa (choc-orange flavour), smooth and sweet. Great for dessert!
The Old Standards
Of course, you can still pick up the traditional cocktails and standard drinks everywhere in Israel. There’s plenty of beer, in bars and restaurants and corner shops. I had Bloody Marys at Benedicts, and mojitos in Ein Gedi. So, never fear – there’s something for everyone in Israel!
Where To Drink In Israel
This amazing bar was recommended to us by the bartender at our hotel in Tel Aviv. We felt right at home there! The DJ played Elvis and the Beach Boys all night long. Mozner had makeshift ashtrays made of coasters on every table, and paintings of topless women on the walls. We received some amazing traditional customer service, and did shots of Arak with the locals. We had a truly excellent time! We’ll be dropping back in next time we’re in Tel Aviv for sure. Funky little hipster bar for funky little hipsters like us 😉
Little Prince Bookstore/Cafe/Bar
The Little Prince was pretty much our idea of the holy land. We picked up a well-preserved copy of The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde – in English no less – for just 50 NIS (about $20 AUD). We had a few drinks there, and the staff were generous and friendly. You can sit inside nestled among the bookshelves, or in the back garden area… among more bookshelves. We wondered for a minute how they protected the books out there from the elements, but then we realised it almost never rains in Tel Aviv. Anyway: any place where we can read, drink, and caffeinate as required is a winner for us. They’re lucky we didn’t move in!
We literally found this place by googling “cheap drinks in Tel Aviv”. You can take the millennial out of inner western Sydeny, but… Cafe Berlin are renowned for their cheap deliciousness – their entire cocktail menu is 2-for-1 from midday until 10:30PM. And boy, did we take advantage of that! Once again, some amazing traditional Israeli Customer Service on offer, and we sat out-front watching the staff talk to one another and smoke cigarettes (moreso than actually serving anyone in their very crowded bar), and had an excellent time. Highly recommended for the budget-conscious traveller!
It sounds strange, but… Mexican Restaurants!
There are many, many Mexican restaurants in Tel Aviv (it sounds random, I know, but just go with it). Funnily enough, they all do amazing margaritas! My favourite was Taqueria in Tel Aviv – the bartender asked me whether I’d like the regular margarita or the daily special, and when I couldn’t decide, he said “Why don’t we do both?”. That’s my kind of place! The lime-y tequila-y goodness is particularly quenching in the desert heat. I know it fails the “authenticity” test by the long-time traveller standards, but believe me: if you disregard it on those grounds alone, you’re missing out!
Warning! Important Things To Know When You’re Drinking in Israel
Beware The Free-Pour
The Israelis are generous pourers. We didn’t see a single nip-pourer device while we were there. We fly pretty fast and loose ourselves back home, but the Israelis put us to shame! The drinks might seem expensive (they’re about equivalent to Australian prices, for the most part – Cafe Berlin is the exception rather than the rule), but you’re definitely getting bang for your buck. Just make sure you’ve got a plan to get home safe (particularly if you’re travelling alone!).
Lost in Translation
Every traveller knows that some things can get lost in translation. It turns out Israelis call shots “chasers”. So, if you order a tequila with a chaser, expect to receive… well, a tequila shot to wash down your tequila shot. We learned this the hard way at Cafe Berlin!
No Mini-Bar Martinis
The hotels that we stayed in didn’t have mini-bars, and that seems to be pretty standard (for all but the most luxurious of accommodations). I would expect that, where there are mini-bars, they would be insanely expensive (judging by cost of living in Israel). Never fear! You can pick up liquor at basically every convenience store (a la South East Asia). Make sure you get to them before they close for Shabbat on Fridays/Saturdays! This is less of an issue in Tel Aviv, where everything stays open, but still something to bear in mind.
On the evening of Shavuot, out of pure desperation, we ended up picking up some Bacardi Breezers from the am:pm. I haven’t had them in almost a decade – it was a nice little throwback, but not an experience that I’m eager to repeat!
Location, Location, Location!
If you’re looking to party, then Tel Aviv is the place to be. You may find other areas – Jerusalem, Ein Gedi – a little more conservative, and a little less willing to indulge your thirst. Tel Aviv prides itself on being the cosmopolitan hub of Israel, like the progressive liberal cousin that comes to suburban family barbecues. We had an excellent time in Tel Aviv, and we’re sure you will too!
And there we have it, a complete guide to drinking in Israel. Is there something we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below!