A couple of days ago, the summer season officially began, and this means it's time to grab that bottle opener because the Israeli drinking season is officially open!
Alcoholic beverages aren't just a fun pastime here in Israel. They play a major role in the Jewish religion and practices, or as part of a tourist's ideal visit to Israel.
The beaches and restaurants are always full of people enjoying a cool drink on a hot summer's day, locals and visitors alike (whenever there isn't a Coronavirus pandemic of course). Maybe it's the hectic Israeli lifestyle, or just the enjoyment of the taste, either way, one thing is for sure - Israel and alcohol go hand in hand.
Let's go over some of Israel's favorite drinks.
Wine | יין
Like in many other cultures around the world, wine has been part of Jewish life for centuries, pretty much since the time of the Tanah.
Since then the drink's popularity has only grown here in Israel. It is used in many of the Jewish practices, such as Kiddush on Shabbat and holidays, wedding or Brit (circumcision) ceremonies, Purim festivities, and many more. But it isn't used only in religious ceremonies, for instance before holidays or significant events at workplaces or in the army, it is customary to have a glass of wine at a haramat kosit (a formal toast).
But Israelis, in general, have just become fascinated with this magical drink over the past few years. More and more local wineries have opened in Israel, from large-scale giants to small boutiques. There are around 300 wineries in our small country, a relatively large amount if you ask us.
There are four schools in Israel that teach winemaking and viticulture.
Arak | ארק
Arak is an anise drink that is an absolute Israeli favorite, similar to Uzo in Greece, Pastis in France, or Sambuca in Italy. The drink's origins are rooted in the Middle East and it was first manufactured right here in the area (Israel - Syria - Lebanon - Turkey). In the early days of the Israeli state, during the Tzena (the Austerity period in Israel), money was tight, and the cheap price of Arak made it popular with all of the new Olim, mostly those from North Africa and other Arab countries.
Elit HaArak, the most popular Arak brand in Israel, has been manufactured in Haifa since 1824! Crazy! The drink controls 90% of the Anise drinks market in Israel.
Beer | בירה
Beer wasn't so popular in Israel, mostly likely because wine was such a big thing here. Well, that has changed. Big time. We can now say with assurance that BEER IS HUGE here in Israel. Israelis love their beer, especially craft and boutique beers, local and foreign. The beer in Israel is manufactured mostly by two big companies: Tempo Beer Industries (Goldstar, Maccabi, Heineken) and Israel Beer Breweries Ltd (Carlsberg, Tuborg). Nonetheless, over the past decade or so, more and more boutique breweries have been popping up across Israel. As of 2018, there are 24 licensed boutique breweries in Israel, spread out all over the country. All in all, Israel produces over 100 types of beer, proving how much we have come to love this drink.
There is a Palestinian beer called Taybeh, that is manufactured near Ramallah, in the Palestinian Authority. It is quite astonishing how the brewery has been around since 1994, since the Muslim community, in general, doesn't consume alcohol. Just another remarkable Israeli business survival story.
Cocktails | קוקטייל
The cocktail world is a relative newcomer in the Israeli alcohol scene. You can find more and more cocktail bars that have opened all over the country, not just in Tel Aviv. We're talking Jerusalem, Haifa, and Beer Sheva, they're just popping up like mushrooms after the rain. There isn't really a specific cocktail that Israelis are fond of, pretty much anything goes. From the classic Gin & Tonic or Mojito to sophisticated spice-based cocktails or Israeli flavored concoctions. They are all welcome!
Ariel Leizgold is probably the most decorated and famous Israeli bartender. In 2006, Leizgold won the international cocktail competition in Finland, in the Aperitif category, and in 2015 he took second place in the "World Class" competition in Cape Town, South Africa.