Starting off as mostly a wine writer, not too long ago this list would have consisted mostly of wineries and wine bars. Over the last few years,however, I’ve been writing more and more about the beer, cocktail, spirits and nightlife scene in Israel so its a bit more diversified and as I might visit someplace new on any given night that might wow me and affect my memory concerning a previous list spot holder, the list will be ever evolving as long as I’m still drinking or breathing or both.
The Tasting Room (36 Kaplan Street in the Sarona Complex)
Wine is my true love as libations go as there is an endless amount of grape varieties, wineries, regions and styles to explore. And each new vintage you can start your exploring all over again. I’ve found no better place to sample wines from their extensive list of Israeli wines and they feature a nice selection of imports, too. Currently 44 wines are served by the taste (30 ml) the half glass (75 ml) and a full glass (125 ml) by way of automated pouring stations that assure you get the exact pour you are paying for, keep the wines fresher and at the right temperature. Great deals on wine bottles to go or having a whole bottle there make it a one stop wine oasis for wine novices and connoisseurs.
223 (223 Dizengoff St., near corner of Jabotinsky)
An epicenter of Israel’s craft cocktail community, owner and mixologist Ariel Leizgold might be the most influential bartender in Israel. Infused cocktails and drinks that are as stunning to look at as they are delightful to drink in a hip, swanky venue with a sharp dressing staff. Quite often if you come across an imaginative cocktail somewhere else in Israel, it can be traced back to Ariel. Looking forward to check out their new Bell Boy location in Tel Aviv.
Cervercia (48 Ben Yehuda)
This “Spanish Bar” is the brainchild of long time industry insiders Tal & Yossi who left their corporate wine & food jobs for sinking their teeth into sharing their passion for especially gourmet eats and drinks. This small and charming respite is modeled more after a Madrid bar motif than Barcelona as Madrid has become a haven for Gin as London is for Single Malt Scotch. Cervercia features 40 Gins from all over the world including Gins made from wheat, rye and even apples and have 5 tonic waters often paired to go with particular Gins. Here they insist the tonic is as important as the Gin after all a Gin and Tonic is 2/3 tonic water after all so more tonic than Gin. Don’t pass up some of the best bar food in Tel Aviv if not all of Israel: the spicy and savory slider size burgers, spanish fries and Manchego and Quince jam were my favorites treats..
Dancing Camel (2 spots: 12 HaTa’asiya St. & 10 Vital)
Israel’s first craft micro-brewery makes quality standard fare typically with a twist and some amazing rare finds like Leche del Diablo (a chili infused beer) or their scrumptious Cherry Vanilla Stout. Good pub food, often live music and they even have the pride to feature other Israeli micro-breweries on tap which no other Israeli micro-brewery has the self confidence or sense of fraternity to copy.
Tel Aviv’s Suburbs
Jem’s Beer Factory (3 spots: Petah Tikvah, Kfar Saba and Raanana)
launched by two American friends Dan & Jeremy (Jem),this now chain of micro-brews with spot on meat first kosher pub treats features their own beers that are always fresh and fine examples of pale and amber ales, lagers, pilsners, wheat, stout and occasional seasonal offerings and have become among the most popular drinking spots in their respective towns.
Agnes Bar ( 2 spots: Hod Hasharon & Tel Aviv)
Chilled kegs of beers are the exception and not the rule in Israel. Typically the beer is kept at room temperature and chilled on the way to the tap. With their chilled kegs, the beer stays fresher longer and is served at a better pressure for better carbonation as well. Great pub food and a selection of craft Israeli beers help this small chain keep a more discriminating following of loyal fans.
I admit I spend more time drinking in Tel Aviv than in Jerusalem after all Tel Aviv makes the lists of the best night life’s in the world not Jerusalem but I promise to have a separate list of drinking spots in Israel’s biggest city.
The Mamilla Hotel
Sporting an insane view of the Old City from its rooftop restaurant, this is one of Israel’s best kosher meat restaurants with a premium wine list. Come for the spiritually replenishing views as you replenish your spirit with spirits. It’s a must see view at least once while you’re in Jerusalem especially at night when the Old City is lit up.
Tishbi Winery ( Binyamina & Zichron Ya’acov)
Possibly the best winery visitor center in Israel with an Austrian trained chef in charge of serving up fantastic breakfast and lunches for a party of two or bus loads. But the best deals are six Valrhona chocolates imported from France and wine tastings for 30 NIS (six of each) and on Fridays they have great BBQ brisket in a pita for 25 NIS that comes with a bottomless glass of house red wine. They have a full menu satellite cafe in downtown Zichron open until midnight every night but Friday since they’re kosher and closed for the Sabbath and holidays.
Barosh Pina (Rosh Pina)
Breathtaking views of the rolling green hills of the Galilee make everything taste better but this hillside restaurant features one of the largest lists of Israeli wines and they are all available by the glass. I look forward to returning and enjoying their succulent lamb chops with possibly a Margalit Cabernet Franc or a Syrah Reserve from Tulip.
Eli’s Pub ( Haifa)
Monday nights are Jam session night that attract some of Israel’s best musicians from all over the country to play with each other directed by owner Eli who is a bass, keyboard and drum player himself and often joins in when needed and the jam goes on free from 10PM to at least 1am if not as late as 3am on some nights.
David Rhodes, is a California trained sommelier and wine educator who has worked at wineries and restaurants in Israel and the United States and can be reached at email@example.com