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Alcohol in Israel

Updated: May 7, 2023

Until Israel's independence in 1948, due to Islamic prohibition, little to no alcohol was produced or drunk in what is now Israel. Israel now has a nightlife that rivals that of New York City. Local wines and breweries are also gaining international recognition and winning significant honors. And Israel, while adhering to dietary and religious constraints such as keeping kosher and honoring the Sabbath, has a burgeoning bar culture for lovers of specialty cocktails and boozy slushies topped with gummy bears, craft brewers, and prestigious winemakers.

Where to drink?

Tel Aviv is always the number one spot to enjoy a drink whilst in Israel. The cosmopolitan Mediterranean city is a Mecca for anyone looking to enjoy good quality food and wine whilst in the country. There are countless restaurants, bars, and clubs in the country but the best places to go to enjoy a beer, wine or cocktail would be a beachside town like Tel Aviv, Eilat or Acre. Although there is also a vibrant bar scene in Jerusalem, just outside the old city.

Israeli Wine

Winemaking dates all the way back to biblical times in what would become Israel. However, due to religious laws, output was limited. Elad Katz, deputy director of Castel Winery in Yad Hashmona, just outside of Jerusalem, explains that many vineyards were replaced with olive trees during Muslim control to encourage the prohibition of winemaking. As a result, Israel's commercial wine business is still relatively young in comparison to the global sector.

For a long period of time, Israeli wine was synonymous with the excessively sweet Kosher Manischewitz, which was frequently consumed during religious events. The country's wines are now receiving considerable Western interest. Golan Heights Winery was the first Israeli winery to get the New World Winery of the Year award from Wine Enthusiast in 2012. Last October, Wine Spectator devoted a whole issue to the growing region.

In an effort to create wines that are uniquely American, some winemakers have discovered a technique to cultivate grapes in the desert. Israel is the first wine-producing country to do so, according to Efi Kotz, sommelier at Rooftop at the Mamilla Hotel in Jerusalem. Additionally, he claims that the grapes are grown sufficiently above ground to escape the heat and are shielded from the sun by their own leaves.

Recanati Winery, established in 2000 in Emek-Hefer, approximately halfway between Haifa and Tel Aviv, has taken the lead in collaborating with Ariel University in the West Bank to unearth Israel's indigenous grapes. The two entities discovered 126 species, but one, in particular, stands out: marawi. According to the university, this grape species dates all the way back to 220 B.C.E. Recanati presently makes the same-named white wine. This is not the first time that marawi grapes have been used to make wine. A monastery blends these grapes, but Recanati uses marawi solely.

Beer in Israel

The craft beer sector has existed for about a decade, whereas Israel's version of Budweiser, Gold Star, dates all the way back to the 1950s. Avi "Steve" Levi-Stevenson, one of the proprietors of the aforesaid Beer Bazaar, asserts that the homebrewing market was thriving long before boutique labels began selling their own beverages. Beer Bazaar is one of the more popular sites in Tel Aviv, with four outlets in Tel Aviv and one in Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda neighborhood. While the brewery provides a variety of national beers, it also produces five unique styles: Fat Cat (pale ale), Bhindi (IPA), Dodash (amber ale; dodash is slang for "aunt"), Black Jack (smoked stout), and Esser (esser is slang for "aunt") (a 10 percent ABV Belgium tripel, esser means 10 in Hebrew). These beers, based on what was tested, are quite light and crisp to an American palate. In comparison to IPAs available in the United States, the IPA had stronger flowery flavors and a lower IBU.

Alexander Brewery is one of the country's most popular craft beer brands, having launched in 2009. Previously, creator and brewmaster Ori Sagy was a homebrewer who studied the craft at Chicago's Siebel Institute of Technology. Currently, the brewery produces four varieties of beer: blonde ale, amber ale, India pale ale, and porter.

Cocktails and Spirits

Israel's national beverage is arak, which is distilled from anise. The licorice-flavored spirit has been consumed in the Middle East for generations. Numerous establishments flavor their arak with seasonal fruit. The drink, which is extremely popular among Israel's hipster young, as it is a little more affordable the most of the imported spirits.

Israel is actually quite an expensive country to enjoy an alcoholic beverage, but if you have a little more cash to spend then there are a number of bars, terraces, and clubs which you will be able to try a modern cocktail. In the up-market establishments, Bar Tenders take their job extremely seriously here and will always offer the quality of quantity, it will just be one at a price.

Overall, aside from the fact that some areas in Israel are of deep cultural and religious significance, the majority of the country (especially the younger generation) are quite liberal and open-minded. Most places with bustling nightlife could even be similar compared to being in Europe.

Also Read: Getting to Israel

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