PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID VAAKNIN
On a central Jerusalem street, unmarked doors open to reveal a parlor straight out of Roaring u201920s America, where a bulky two-piece telephone hangs on the wood-paneled wall and jazz music plays softly. An attendant slides open a bookshelf to reveal the Gatsby Cocktail Room, a glitzy speakeasy with gilded mirrors, a sleek black marble bar, and waiters in bow ties serving handcrafted cocktails. u201cFor me, the fascinating thing is that people actually find this place,u201d says manager Libby Tartakovski. u201cThat means theyu2019ve heard about us.u201d
Since opening in 2014, Gatsby has not only made a name for itself among savvy locals but also has served as a catalyst for a burgeoning cocktail sceneu2014a surprising addition to a city that, unlike Tel Aviv, is better known for its holy sites than its nightlife. u201cJerusalem didnu2019t really have any cocktail bars when we opened, and a lot of people told us this was not going to work, but it worked,u201d says Tartakovski, who uses fresh herbs, seasonal fruits, and local spirits to spice up the classics and offers only-in-Jerusalem creations such as the Gatsbyu2019s Local Pride, made with herbal Galliano Lu2019Autentico liqueur, homemade coconut cream, passion fruit, lime, and arak, a Levantine anise-flavored spirit. u201cI donu2019t think we invented anything, but we have made a buzz. Now more people know about cocktails.u201d
A similar mix of elegance and creativity can be found at Zuta, an intimate new bar connected to chef Yankale Turjemanu2019s 1868 restaurant. With indoor seating among stone walls and a patio surrounded by lush gardens, Zuta features a menu that pairs new creations with trending modern classics, such as the bitters-based Trinidad Sour (a wildly popular drink throughout Israel that was invented by a New York bartender in 2009). Order the Maid in Tunis, which mixes cucumberu2014a vegetable seen in seemingly every salad in Israelu2014with lime, fresh mint, and boukha, a North African fig brandy.
Tucked in an alley of the busy Machane Yehuda open-air market, Tap & Tail opened in early 2017 in a former butcheru2019s stall. u201cThe idea was to create a more civilized atmosphereu2014and with style,u201d says co-owner Gil Barnea. The To Be or Not to Be features the semi-mysterious Tubi 60 liqueur, which is made in the northern Israeli city of Haifa with citrus, herbs, spices, flowers, and tree extracts. Itu2019s mixed with melon Midori liqueur, lemon, and fresh mint leaves and served in a lightbulb-shaped glass.
Nearby, on the outskirts of the market, Bakshish offers an extensive menu of cocktails served around an ultra-modern square bar with purple and white glass orbs hanging from the ceiling. Patrons sip on creations like Grey Goose vodka stirred with lime, elderflower, lemonade, and freshly snipped basil and rosemary alongside tapas like bruschetta with zatar, honey, and eggplant. u201cThe market is a very authentic and traditional place, but we wanted to bring something new,u201d explains co-owner Ron Ben Yair.
While all these new spots have no doubt created competition for Gatsby, Tartakovski doesnu2019t see it that way. u201cI would be happy if a few more cocktail bars opened,u201d she says. u201cI think the city needs it.u201d