Israeli Cocktails and Commandos

This week I’m reviewing Saul David’s “Operation Thunderbolt” so I thought I’d do a little research into Israel’s cocktail scene. According to Haaretz, it’s booming, with new bars and clubs popping up all the time. One of those up and coming spots is Tel Aviv’s beautiful Imperial Craft Cocktail Bar, which in October was listed at number 17 of Drink International’s list of top 50 bars in the world, a high water mark for an Israeli bar.

Via Time Out Israel, I found Imperial’s “The Don Juan,” a mix of rum, maraschino, lime, agave, ginger syrup, champagne, and Peychaud’s. The recipe didn’t come with apportionments so I made up my own: this is a good smooth drink, easy citrus sweetness with some dryness from the champagne and a strong Peychaud’s twist. Also tasted the agave which lends a soft, velvety sugar to the drink as well. Yum.

  • 1.5 oz Bacardi superior (I used Captain Morgon’s white rum)
  • .75 oz Luxardo maraschino
  • .75 oz lime juice
  • .5 oz agave syrup
  • .75 ginger syrup (I used ginger-lime syrup)
  • Dash of Peychaud’s
  • Brut Champagne

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From the Food 52 website I discovered the “Israeli Summer,” a sparkling lemon drink mixed with mint syrup and seltzer. The non-alcohol refresher is called Israel’s national drink, especially during the sweltering summer months. I decided to fiddle with the recipe a bit by adding an ounce of Cointreau and using champagne instead of boring old seltzer water. This was very fresh and sprightly with the heavy lemon taste. I probably should have used a bigger glass so I could get more bubbles in the drink or use a little less lemon, but this was a very good drink for an evening outing in the Negev, or Washington DC in August.

  • ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ounces mint simple syrup
  • 1 ounce Cointreau
  • Fill with champagne

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Finally, from Tel Aviv bar Abushdid I had the “Smoke and Honey,” a mix of rye, single malt, cointreau, honey syrup and lime. I wasn’t sure about the apportionments so I eyeballed it, more or less, and was glad with how it turned out. This was very strong, but the rye and single malt actually blended nicely, and the honey and orange/lime flavor lifts the rest of the drink into a surprisingly sweet and soft place. Very good drink, perfect before dinner.

  • 1 ounce Catoctin Creek Rye
  • 1 ounce Glenlivet
  • 1 ounce Cointreau
  • .75 ounce honey syrup
  • .75 ounce lime

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I was tipped to Saul David’s pulse-pounding new history of the Entebbe raid by Allan Furst’s effusive New York Times review. I am a huge fan of Mr. Furst’s spy novels, so I was happy to learn upon reading “Operational Thunderbolt” that we have similar tastes in books; this is history at its finest, extraordinarily well-researched and unfolding at a breakneck pace. David’s narrative is so thoroughly detailed and written that it reads as a novel, with the initial hijacking recounted in horrifying detail. The story that unfolds is part political drama, part military thriller, and part human drama as the multinational group of hostages struggles to endure rough conditions and daily threats.

 David’s book is chock full of fascinating details including the minutes of cabinet-level debates in Tel Aviv, the military history of Israel’s primary CT unit Sayeret Matkal, and an interesting cast of characters including Idi Amin, the erratic and brutal leader of Uganda. Amin’s perfidy is well-established and the actions of his Arab and German terrorist allies ranged from incompetent to brutally violent. Yoni Netanyahu, the commander of the raid and brother of Israel’s current PM is portrayed as surprisingly contemplative and cerebral. This well-detailed backdrop sets the stage for the breathtaking final act, which I read with sweaty palms. Time and time again the success of the raid and the lives of the hostages hung by a thread, and only a mix of dumb luck and quick thinking by the commandos saved the day. A masterpiece of of historical narrative, Saul David’s book is a must-read.

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