The cocktail scene in Tel Aviv has blossomed in recent years, and drinking dens have turned up everywhere from high-end hotels to secretive speakeasies. Fun-seekers pour into the city centre each evening, particularly on Saturdays as the sun goes down to mark the end of Shabbat.
Middle Eastern flavours such as apricot and honey come together with an array of global influences, from Scandinavian to American, in the city’s bustling cocktail joints. The result is a glimpse into the cosmopolitan culture of Tel Aviv, a destination that’s often seen as New York City by the sea. Whether you’re searching for a classic cocktail done right or an innovative new favourite, Tel Aviv accommodates drinkers of all sorts.
Best for a posh setting: Library Bar
Nestled inside the luxurious Norman Hotel, Library Bar offers a respite from Tel Aviv’s packed pavements. This drinking den is led by bartender Noy Davidai, one of the city’s best known mixologists, and the menu features both Norman Signatures and Norman Classics, meaning there’s a drink for every mood. Hunker down in one of the plush leather armchairs or on one of the bar’s ornate stools, and try the tropical Gringo Punch, which pairs Olmeca gold tequila with mango puree, lime and pineapple-chilli syrup, or end your evening with the Library Bar’s take on a negroni. This watering hole also has one of the most extensive spirits lists in town, as well as a wine list that includes Israeli offerings. It’s open from 9am, so it’s ideal spot for a late afternoon cocktail or a pre-dinner drink.
Best for late-night imbibing: Imperial Craft Cocktail Bar
Tucked behind the lobby of the Imperial Hotel, Imperial Craft Cocktail Bar is a low-key, dimly lit spot that features a clever, avant-garde menu that shifts seasonally. It’s open until the last customer leaves, and the music is often raucous and lively late into the night. The cocktail offerings, each with a witty moniker, are divided by taste, from bitter and smoky to fruity and fresh, and the bartenders are well-versed in which drinks will best appeal to your palate. Try the Gold Fashioned, a take on an old fashioned that arrives with a glitzy sprinkling of gold dust. It’s the perfect place to close out a Saturday night, especially since the bar also serves up hangover-protectant dishes, such as pork belly and churros.
Best for discovering a hangover cure: Spicehaus
Enter the doors of The East Jaffa Perfume Company to discover Spicehaus, a ‘sharing cocktail bar’ inspired by old pharmacies. Here, the bartenders stir up concoctions in beakers while wearing pharmacist jackets. It’s one of Tel Aviv’s most popular and largest cocktail bars with a constant flow of imbibers. There’s plenty of food on the menu, but the cleverly presented drinks are the reason to grab a stool. Try one of the classics – you can’t go wrong with the old fashioned – which are offered up in unexpected vessels more suited to a chemistry set.
Best for something unexpected: Double Standard
Double Standard shares ownership with Spicehaus and transforms from mixology supply shop by day to cocktail den by night. Visitors can purchase pre-bottled cocktails to take away, or sit in for a leisurely drink. Like Spicehaus, Double Standard’s offerings come in creative serves (including a Bloody Mary served in a blood bag) and change by the season, as do the food options. Both the glassware and the cocktail flavours themselves offer a surprise (and might elicit a gasp from the table), so don’t be alarmed if your drink arrives in a ceramic shark head. Travellers who don’t want to venture out can order with the bar’s delivery service, which brings pre-mixed cocktails directly to your hotel room to be poured over ice.
Best for a classy evening out: Bellboy Bar
You’ve probably never imagined drinking a cocktail out of a small plastic bathtub complete with a miniature rubber duck, but that’s what you’re in for at Bellboy Bar, a moody spot that will delight and entertain like something out of The Great Gatsby. Styled to look like a vintage 1920s speakeasy, this ornately styled cocktail joint is situated in plain sight in the lobby of the Hotel Berdichevsky. It features a rotating menu of drinks, as well as inventive small plates that take advantage of Tel Aviv’s proximity to the sea. Only those aged 25 and up are admitted, which means the crowded is slightly older and often well dressed. Venture further inside to Butler, a speakeasy inside the speakeasy, which seats only a handful of guests (you’ll need to make a reservation to get in). Be sure to pay a visit to the bathroom, which offers a startling surprise when you look in the mirror – which isn’t actually there at all.
Best for a night out with pals: Concierge
Vintage-inspired spot Concierge,on Dizengoff St, is perfect for nighttime revellers thanks to its location in the heart of Tel Aviv’s bustling nightlife district. The drinks veer towards the tropical end of the palate and are often presented in wild and eclectic glasses. The outdoor patio is ideal for warm summer nights, especially in a group. The entertaining drinks come with names like Brain Freeze and Funky Monkey. Try the Chartreuse Swizzle, a more bitter take on the swizzle that uses homemade spice syrup and Green Chartreuse, or the Pink Floyd, a tequila cocktail that owes its brilliant shade to Aperol and guava. Arrive in time for happy hour, which runs from 5pm to 8pm, for half off anything alcoholic.
Best for seasonal ingredients: 223
The busy thoroughfare of Dizengoff St is also home to 223, an offbeat, bohemian cocktail bar created by mixologist Ariel Leizgold back in 2008. It’s actually Tel Aviv’s oldest cocktail bar, and the legacy shows in the innovative drinks, which combine unusual flavors and ingredients. The menu changes by the season, so it’s worth visiting at every time of year to find out what’s available. A recent inclusion, the Winter Gin & Tonic, combined 223 Aquavit, lavender syrup, rose syrup, sage, lime and tonic for a surprising yet familiar experience that’s a compelling juxtaposition of cold weather flavours and a Mediterranean locale. Alcoholic gummy bears have also been known to show up on the menu.
Best for contemporary classics: Botanika
Botanika, located inside the Ultra Hotel, unexpectedly fuses Scandinavian influences with an Israeli flair, both in its cocktails and its design thanks to owners who have lived in Stockholm and Tel Aviv. The result is a bar experience that brings in flavours and ideas from both cultures, with a seasonal menu that looks at classic cocktails through a new lens. The intimate setting features concrete walls, brown leather accents and a stylish minimalist vibe. Look out for unconventional ingredients, such as sesame, olive oil and smoked cotton candy (the latter is in the Tivoli Negroni, which also uses gin, strawberry-infused Aperol and amber vermouth), and each food item on the menu is carefully paired to a cocktail.