When the Eagles of Death Metal stormed the stage at Barby Club last September, the first thing frontman Jesse Hughes said was “L’haim!” as he lifted a bottle of foggy lemony liqueur and saluted the crowd.
“Tubi 60!” he cried. He described it as “tasting incredibly good” while packing a punch like “gasoline.” Hughes extolled the drink as he chugged between songs. He had never heard of it until that day, felt its strong effects quickly and it would leave him without a hangover afterward. Or so they say. The American rock group had discovered the citrusy strong new herbal brew that transforms a night and spread through Israel through word-of-mouth alone.
“I wasn’t there that night,” Hilal Tubi, who founded Tubi 60 with his brother Yanai in 2012, told Metro.
“But my friends were. They were calling me, telling me that Eagles of Death Metal kept talking about Tubi 60. After the show, the band ordered whole cases for the afterparty and to bring back with them to the States.”
It’s one of what Tubi called “small Tubi miracles.” Like when bars sold out of Tubi 60 on Independence Day and patrons lined up around the block waiting for Tubi 60. They had to go in and make emergency deliveries. Or when Channel 10 news anchor Rafi Reshef opened a bottle of Tubi 60 and took a shot right on air. Or when Tubi 60 took social media by storm with scores of visual tributes to the brew.
“My favorite,” said Tubi, “Is this one where a girl is doing a handstand, and she’s holding a bottle of Tubi with her foot, and she’s pouring the Tubi into another guy’s mouth!”
Israelis and tourists have gone nuts for the drink, and it’s easy to see why. It’s unusual in appearance – the ingredients separate in the bottle, with honey-colored liquid rising to the top and a pollen-like mix of spices and lemon settling on the bottom. But give it a good shake and pour it over ice, and you have a unique libation indeed.
“It’s like limoncello,” said one drinker. “No,” said another, “Like arak with gin and… tea?” Yet a third insisted it was “Like dish soap… with lighter fluid… and… something else?”
But universally, they reached for more. One drinker described it as “way too much” while refilling her glass. The bottle does say: “Warning: after the first glass of Tubi 60, you always want more.”
Warnings aside, what you see is what you get when it comes to Tubi 60: “grains,” water, sugar, “spices,” “herbal essences,” and “rose essences”... in addition to its 40% alcohol content. The drink is in complete compliance with Health Ministry regulations and had a seamless transition when licensed in US markets as well. Each small batch is made with care and organic ingredients, and this, Tubi said, accounts for the low rate of hangovers. This may come as a surprise to some who have said that Tubi 60’s buzz is more like a high, and speculated about possible exotic secret ingredients.
What makes the Tubi 60 frenzy astonishing is that all of the attention has been organic from the streets. You don’t see Tubi 60 ads, you don’t run into aggressive Tubi promoters. If anything, information about the brand has been relatively hard to come by.
For years, there wasn’t public information about Tubi 60. Media sources claimed to have pursued interviews and were ignored, and when Walla News followed a breadcrumb trail to the Tubi 60 factory on record, they claimed to have found a locked, silent brick building, and reported that neighbors said factory staff changed regularly and were only allowed outside in pairs on cigarette breaks.
When asked about this Willy Wonka reputation, Tubi laughed.
“It was just a factory! It wasn’t so mysterious. We didn’t have a shop or give tours, that’s why it didn’t have a big Tubi 60 sign in lights. People go out on breaks together because they’re friends – it’s the same at every workplace. And I was always here, willing to talk, I mean, look at me – do I look like I’m trying to hide?”
Tubi wore a black Tubi 60 T-shirt, large gold necklace with the logo, and oversized sunglasses to the interview. At this point, his digital marketing specialist, Renata Moshkovich, piped up.
“It’s true. I’ve been working with him for several months and I’ve never seen him wear anything else.”
“It’s my outfit,” said Tubi. “It’s all I’ve worn for at least two years. One time, all my Tubi 60 shirts were in the laundry, so I was wearing a gray shirt, and my best friend – he hardly recognized me.”
“There are so many rumors,” he said. “But they’re just rumors. One of my favorites is about how Tubi was founded. People were saying that the creators went into the desert and nobody knows what they did there, or how long they stayed, but they came back with Tubi.”
As nice as he found that story, it couldn’t be farther from the truth. Tubi and his brother Yanai developed the drink over nearly a year of trial and error, carefully researching ingredients and distilling methods, meeting with master-brewers, and testing many iterations with close friends. They wanted a drink that was made from all natural, top-shelf ingredients, that went down smooth and equated to, as the bottle says, “pure happiness.” They felt such a drink was absent from the market, and set out to make their own.
“We started out in my parents’ apartment in Haifa,” said Tubi. “I moved everything out of my room and started a small distillery… then we took over my brother’s room, too, and we grew and grew.”
What started out as a drink just for their consumption was passed around by friends, and soon word got out. Tubi left his work in the music industry to dedicate himself to the business of “pure happiness.”
As for the name, Tubi is eponymous. But the 60? “One of my friends had a lot of Tubi,” he said. “And suddenly, she just started shouting ‘THIS IS TUBI 60, THIS IS TUBI 60!’ Nobody had a better idea, so it stuck.”
The first bottle was made in 2012, and the brand expanded commercially in 2013. Since then, fans have held Tubi-only parties, themed Tu Bishvat and Tu Be’av events around Tubi 60, invented signature Tubi 60 cocktails and slushies, and even brewed up “Tubi tea” with a bit of honey and some cinnamon.
To the joy of tourists and Birthrighters, Tubi 60 has not only expanded around Israel, but is available internationally now. It is served in bars and sold in stores in New York and Texas and can be shipped to just about anywhere in the US. It’s also available in Hungary, and will soon land in Germany and Norway as well.
How does it feel to be an Israeli ambassador through alcohol?
“It’s heartwarming,” said Tubi, noting that they’d only received positive feedback about their branching out. “And it’s also a responsibility, to be good at what we do.”
“I just want to bring people joy,” he said. “To make their lives and experiences a little better. I’m a very positive person, I always have a smile. I think I even sleep with a smile.”For more information and to try Tubi 60 for yourself, check out www.tubi60.com