I think it’s safe to say that after two-and-a-half years in Jerusalem, I’ve tried most of the best cocktails in the city. That’s not saying a whole lot, because Jerusalem isn’t particularly known for creative cocktails and cool bars, although Tel Aviv is. We mostly drink cocktails from our own bar cart, which always features negronis, boulevardiers, and occasionally Manhattans. By the way, I recently retired our old bar cart, a piece of junk on wheels, which I found outside of our New York City apartment in 2014. I’d painted it glossy dark blue and it sufficed, but it looked a little too small and rickety in our sleek and spacious Jerusalem apartment. I liked the sophisticated bar cart our neighbors had, so I too ordered it from Overstock.
But if we’re venturing out on the town and I want a bomb cocktail, it’s one of these:
Twisted Negroni at Zuta
Okay, really anything at Zuta. Zuta is — by a landslide – the best cocktail bar in Jerusalem. It’s tucked into the back of an understated but fancy kosher restaurant called 1868. It’s small, inviting, pretty, the bartenders are awesome – especially Shmuli – and the cocktails are so, so good. I generally favor a boozy, complex cocktail, and I’m obsessed with negronis, so Zuta’s twisted negroni, made with mezcal, is my go-to. It’s smoky, a little sweet, and a lot of bitter and it’s a flavor I crave. Zuta ain’t cheap, but it’s a good deal if you go from 6-7 Sundays-Thursdays for the buy-one-get-one happy hour deal. (Closed for Shabbat). 10 King David St.
Trinidad Sour at Culinary Workshop
Culinary Workshop is part of a group of great, hip restaurants in Jerusalem (which include Machane Yehuda, Mona, and Talbiya Wine Bar). The ambience is cool, the food is really good, and it’s a great date night or birthday dinner spot. The cocktails are all good, including the gin martini, but my fave is the strong, tropical, and spiced Trinidad Sour. 28 Hebron Rd.
Horse’s Neck at Gatsby Cocktail Room
Gatsby is the slightly too-cool-for-its-own-good speakeasy that I wanted to adore when Mr. Em in Jerusalem and I first arrived in the Holy City. It’s decorated beautifully and is cozy and hidden, but its overly thematic/often weak drinks don’t generally do it for me. If I wanted my drink served in a lightbulb that is resting in a mini bathtub… no wait, I don’t want that. Anyways, this place tinkers with its menu frequently and each time it seems more pared down, so perhaps Gatsby understands that for cocktails, less can be more. When I go, I like a drink from one of its old menus, called a Horse’s Neck, a scotch-based drink that is strong and spicy with a healthy dose of fresh ginger juice. 18 Hillel St.
Honorable mentions go to both the negroni and the basil smash at Pizza Flora in the shuk (which also serves the best pizza in Jerusalem), and the Kentucky Mule at Chakra, a beautiful downtown restaurant. Mr. Em and I have about three months left in Jerusalem, and I’m very open to trying lots more cocktails in those 90 days. So if I’m missing something, let me know and I’ll take it upon myself to investigate.
Speaking of drinks, I’ll be sipping French wines this week, straight from the source. I’m posting this from an antique-filled room in a crumbling farmhouse in southern France. Outside my window is an epic view of a pine treed mountain and woodsmoke is rising from the chimney of a little terra cotta-roofed house down below. It is so, so quiet, except for birds chirping and a creek running. I’m pinching myself. I’m here for an artists’ retreat where my good friend/writing pal and I will make solid progress on our respective books. Au revoir until next time!
Em in Jerusalem