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How to Drink at Zahav with Jeff Bartash

Jeff Bartash, Zahav, Philadelphia

When it’s all about the food, how do you make the drinks stand out? Zahav Restaurant and its chef Michael Solomonov have been winning award after award since opening its doors, including finalist for “Outstanding Chef” at the James Beard Awards. As Bar Manager of one of the busiest eateries in the country, it’s Jeff Bartash’s job to find out.

I feel like I should already know what Israeli cooking consists of; I certainly eat a whole lot of Lebanese food living in London. It took a trip home to Philadelphia, while researching an article I was writing for Sainsbury’s Magazine, to discover what I had been missing. Mezze of salads, hummus, lamb shoulder cooked over hot coals – Chef Solomonov turns this peasant food into a work of art.

I, of course, had heard of Zahav, but eating there is a whole different basket of Laffa. Needing a beverage to accompany my salatim, I asked the staff for a suggestion. Next thing I knew, a pitcher of Lemonnana was plonked down on the table.

Lemon, Mint & Bourbon…so simple – no wonder it’s the national drink of Israel. Oh, just a slight different between what you might have tasted on the streets of Tel Aviv –  Zahav’s version added bourbon to the mix. We sampled the five other signature cocktails that had made it onto the menu, but on my way back to the UK, I was still dreaming of Lemonnana.  

In Philadelphia for a trip, I just had to meet Jeff Bartash, the man whose job it is to oversee which cocktails make the cut and end up on the list. I learned a whole lot more than I imagined, about, not only Lemonanna, but also their wine list, which includes little known wines from Lebanon and Turkey as well.

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