Wine, Cocktails & Beer – Israel in High Spirits…

BY Lee Saunders   DATE 26/08/2019

The problem with the world is that everyone is a few drinks behind,” said the late American actor Humphrey Bogart. In Israel, where the amazing range of food can often steal the limelight, there is a massive celebration of wine, cocktails and beer throughout the year, with many festivals that the visitor should definitely join.

“A good wine is a necessity of life”

While Israel may not be as known for wine as Argentina, Chile or South Africa, the industry has been emerging for some time, with a reputation that is fast-growing. And you may well be surprised by all the delicious wines Israel has to offer today. The Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean is considered to be home to the world’s wine production long before the vine was actually found in Europe. While Israel’s own wine production is particularly strong in the northern vineyards, it is fascinatingly rich and fruitful and varied across the country. In fact, just over the last decade or so, Israel has developed over 200 wineries from the Golan Heights up north to the Negev Desert of the south.

wine festival

Israel – Wine country

It comes therefore as no surprise that the country offers multiple wine festivals throughout the year. Winter may yet seem some way off but every January – the Sommelier exhibition takes place over two days in the Mann Auditorium of Tel Aviv’s Habima theater. Although targeted at hotels, restaurants, bar owners and manufacturers, the event opens up every evening to the public, with a complete focus on wine. You will find more than 60 Israeli wineries alongside dozens of international wine brands, hundreds of bottles of wine most of them new, and professional workshops displayed on 2 large floors. If you want a chance to visit every booth and buy some bottles, I highly suggest you go for both nights. A four-day festival – and one of Israel’s largest wine festivals – takes place every summer in Jerusalem at the Israel Museum, a ten-minute drive from the infamous wine bar at the King David Jerusalem Hotel. For the past 16 years, this Wine Festival has taken place in the museum’s stunning sculpture garden, under Jerusalem’s tipsy twinkling stars. Here, you can sample hundreds of different wines from dozens of different wineries. More than twenty thousand visitors enjoyed the most recent event in July, appreciating the wines, the varied cheese stands and tremendous live music that certainly helps the “medicine” go down.

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Barmen doing their thing during TLV Cocktail week (credit: DrinkTLV)

The Most Intoxicating Cocktails

If the wine industry is continuing to emerge, the appetite for cocktails is positively head spinning. Almost every month, a new cocktail bar is opening up in Israel, trying to attract its clientele with the most outrageous, over the top creations. Tel Aviv – the city that started the cocktail scene in Israel – organizes Tel Aviv Cocktail Week – a seven-day summer festival in June dedicated to the art of the cocktail. Many bars around the city host events, workshops and showcase their innovative, high-quality specialty cocktails. You will be dazzled by the supreme talents of seasoned bartenders, showing off their works of art and passion for flavors and creativity. What’s so wonderful about this festival is that there is something for everyone, if you just want a decently priced but delicious cocktail at your neighborhood bar or if you want to actually learn how to create your own cocktails from the professionals – you can do it all!

special alcohol events

Busy bar during Cocktail week (credit: DrinkTLV)

North of Tel Aviv, at Herzliya marina, merely a ten-minute walk from the luxurious Dan Accadia, the Israel Cocktail Festival will offer you the chance to get to know the best cocktails by touring the festival stands . With the semi-final of the alcoholic brand Mezcal IBA , hosted by the Link Hotel & Hub in Tel Aviv, over 12,000 cocktails are mixed and shaken (not stirred) during the festival by professional bartenders and renowned mixologists, using top-shelf alcohol to serve a crowd who appreciative the hard-work behind the art. At each stand, you are not just getting a drink but a show as well! The master behind the counter takes you on a journey, sharing with you the recipes and stories behind their signature cocktails, and a particular theme that is close to their heart.

From Micro to Macro – Beer is Growing
While Israel may be gaining international recognition for its wineries, it has also become host to a surprising celebration of whiskey – with Whisky Live, the international whiskey exhibition taking place again in 2020 in Israel, for the sixth year. The country is also home to a plethora of microbreweries. While Tempo Beer has been producing the famous Goldstar and Maccabee brands since the 1950s, since the Dancing Camel microbrewery opened its doors in 2005, there has been a surge in microbreweries and a number of festivals. Among them, Jerusalem Beer Fest takes place at the end of August. Running for 15 years, this two-day festival does not disappoint, pouring out over 120 local and international beers to taste from as you drink and dance an unforgettable night away at the city’s Independence Park.

beer festival

Jerusalem Beer Festival (credit: Ido Nitay Flash)

At the Herzliya marina and Tel Aviv’s Sarona Market complex, the British pub style chain, Lager & Ale hosts a festival offering a European take on pub culture. Offering the opportunity to pull your own pint, the two-day festival in August also allows everyone to drink freely from over 20 unique beers at affordable prices, accompanied by delicious street food and DJ’s to get you in the mood.

If you are concerned, like Humphrey Bogart, that you are a few drinks behind, there are more than enough festivals to catch up. Enjoy.

Written by  Lee Saunders