September, heralding the autumn season, might have arrived, but in Israel, it is as hot as ever. Even Jerusalem, famed for its much milder temperature than the rest of the country, is still experiencing sweltering hot days.
On days like this, there is nothing like a nice refreshing drink. And what better place to go than Mahaneh Yehuda?
The shuk is Israel’s premier tourist attraction and is bustling with vendors and dining establishments of all stripes. True, the most famous beverage here may be coffee – Israel, after all, does boast a coffee culture so strong that even Starbucks couldn’t break into the market.
But that’s common knowledge, and most already know where to get the best coffee in the shuk – spoiler alert, it’s Power CoffeeWorks – although Aroma is still top tier for its unbeatable brand recognition and standard quality.
But what about other drinks? The alternative beverages that aren’t coffee or alcohol – after all, alcohol isn’t exactly refreshing on a hot summer day. What about those other alternative drinks that are nice, cool, and fun for the whole family?
Well, who better to figure this out for you, dear readers, than I? Yes, I personally combed through the crowded shuk on a hot day to undertake this difficult endeavor of sampling these pleasant and refreshing drinks. Truly, it was an exceptionally grueling culinary expedition, but one that I undertook with the spirit of topical journalism to provide our cherished audience with the information you doubtlessly all crave.
Right away, there is one big hint that can help you find out which place is best: the crowd. As a general rule, the more crowded a vendor is, the better its products are. And because they end up burning through their supply so quickly to meet the high demand, their products probably will also be fresher.
Every drink mentioned is kosher, non-alcoholic, and not coffee. These items are ranked from lowest ranking to highest.
So without further ado, In Jerusalem proudly presents its latest food round-up: The best alternative drinks in Mahaneh Yehuda.
If you want to be technical, this place isn’t in the shuk proper but is right across the street. Nonetheless, Sehut Bashuk, whose name translates to “squeezed in the shuk,” is the first drinks place you will see when you get off the light rail at the Mahaneh Yehuda stop.
While it’s a standard small grocery, complete with all the amenities one would expect, Sehut Bashuk also comes with a variety of made-on-the-spot drinks, including fruit juices and shakes.
To keep things on an even playing field, I decided to prioritize shakes and smoothies over just plain juices. Overall, Sehut Bashuk is a very classic and standard Israeli shake vendor, with shakes that can include berries, strawberries, kiwi, passion fruit, mango, pineapple, and even some decidedly non-fruit ingredients, such as halva. As anyone who knows me can attest, a halva option is always something I have to try when it’s offered.
A number of bases were also offered, but in the interest of it being a long day and me being an Ashkenazi Jew, with all that implies, I decided to forgo the milk base and instead requested that the shake be prepared with water.
Per a customer’s recommendation, I chose a banana and strawberry shake with, of course, halva. NIS 25.
It tasted fine, all things considered. On a hot day, it can be a very refreshing drink. But it wasn’t anything too special or out of the ordinary – and everything else on this list topped it by a considerable margin in terms of both quality and price. So that leaves it with an unfortunate 4/10.
Modi Shambiko’s stall
Israel is often said to be a coffee nation, and this is true. But what if you’re too young for coffee? Or what if you just prefer something colder, sweeter, and cheaper on a hot day? In that case, there is no Israeli drink more iconic, more widespread, and more beloved than the barad.
These drinks are basically slushies. Barad machines are ubiquitous and can be found at grocery stores, gas stations, and other venues throughout Israel. In the shuk alone, there are any number of places offering this icy, sugary beverage.
But in the spirit of inclusion, and because it was really hot out and I thought it would be really refreshing at the time, I had to get one here too.
The vendor I chose was a classic run-of-the-mill shuk stall, selling fruits, vegetables, and, of course, barads. It doesn’t even have a name. When In Jerusalem asked, I was just told to say it was the store that belonged to Modi Shambiko.
This store has a wide array of barad flavors at the front, a veritable battery of sugary beverages. A small cup goes for just NIS 6, and a large one is NIS 10. Some of these were unusual, such as the blue barad that was advertised as a mix of strawberries and oranges, while others were more classic. I chose a small watermelon-flavor barad at the recommendation of another customer.
And with a barad, it was very much one would expect – and that is not a bad thing. Yes, it’s very sugary. Yes, it’s very sweet. Yes, it’s very cold. And for many people, especially a young child wanting a refreshing treat on a hot day, it’s essentially perfect. It’s not the best, but it does the job. 6/10.
Hochmat Habourekas Me’Haifa
Despite its name, it is unclear if the bourekas here actually come from Haifa.
This place is a small cafe in the shuk, though right next to it is a little pathway leading to a much larger dining establishment of the same name. Aside from the obvious inclusion of bourekas – which are not factored in on this list by virtue of decidedly not being a beverage – this place is primarily a cafe and thus specializes in coffee.
But it also has another classic Israeli beverage, one almost as iconic as the milkshake-like ice coffees that are so popular in the Jewish state: the ice vanilla.
This drink, like the ice coffee, is essentially a milkshake, only instead of coffee, it uses vanilla flavoring.
It’s not everyone’s metaphorical cup of tea for sure, but this ice-cold beverage, with its creamy vanilla flavor, is very satisfying, especially on a hot day. It gives all the satisfaction of an ice cream milkshake without the guilt of having something as unhealthy – though whether an ice cream milkshake is actually less healthy than an ice vanilla is another story.
Regardless, this is a drink I personally enjoy, but it is also far from the best option out there. 7/10.
One of the only pure drink-focused places here, and having been at it longer than practically anyone else, Etrog Man is an undeniable staple of the shuk. A Mahaneh Yehuda icon.
Founded by Yemenite immigrant Uzi-Eli Hezi, who wanted to continue his family’s tradition of nature-based medicinal products, Etrog Man’s drinks focused heavily on being not just delicious but also healthy.
Hezi’s drinks naturally included etrogs, known in English as citrons, and were so beloved throughout its years at the shuk that some customers even dubbed it the Garden of Eden.
Hezi passed away in June 2022, but his store is still here.
I decided to try the drink called the etrogat (NIS 15; it also comes in larger sizes at NIS 20 and NIS 25), with additions of carrot, lemon, cucumber, and ginger.
Its kick was immediately evident. The flavor was very strong and peppery, but while shocking at first, I grew accustomed to it quickly.
It’s a good drink to help wake you up in the morning and a good alternative to coffee.
And as another customer who tried the same drink told In Jerusalem, “It’s an experience with history to it.” Even if I didn’t think it was the best drink on this list, I couldn’t agree more. 7/10.
“Wait a second, Aaron,” I hear you saying, or perhaps writing furiously in the comments section of this article on jpost.com, “didn’t you say this list wouldn’t include coffee?”
Yes I did, and I meant it. I did not sample any coffee from Power CoffeeWorks, regardless of how good it is. But this high-quality coffeehouse has more to offer.
Going at the specific recommendation (or instruction) of In Jerusalem editor Erica Schachne, I had one mission when coming here: to drink a matcha latte.
Matcha is made from green tea leaves. That gives any drink made from it a very green color and earthy taste. It isn’t a drink for everyone, but it has its diehard adherents.
Now, the Power CoffeeWorks matcha latte (NIS 23) is certainly good: Its flavor is excellent, especially when served hot, and is an ideal drink for early afternoon, though it is an acquired taste.
However, two factors weigh against it:
- I personally think it could have been better with some chai
- It’s a hot day. Why am I drinking something hot?
To address the second point in particular, I ordered a second drink, a white chocolate matcha latte (NIS 23), which is served cold. However, I don’t think that did it any favors. The white chocolate taste wasn’t very evident and overall, a matcha latte just tastes better hot.
Still, it was a phenomenal drink, and in the winter it would not doubt be amazing. 8/10.
This was a big surprise.
Rimon is a smoothie and shake vendor in the shuk with a couple of different locations. On the outside, it doesn’t look like anything too special. Just a garden variety vendor with the ingredients you would expect.
What could be so special about this place? What would differentiate it from some place like Sehut Bashuk?
I kept my expectations low. At the recommendation of a customer, I ordered the house smoothie, which included melon, peach, apple, and strawberry (NIS 15).
I did not expect it to be this good. The flavor was absolutely amazing, the ingredients blended in seamlessly with each other, and it was overwhelmingly refreshing on such a hot day. It was sweet, it felt filling, and to top it off, it was only NIS 15! Talk about a bang for your buck.
In retrospect, I shouldn’t have had such low expectations. Although Rimon has at least two vendors in the shuk, both were very crowded. With so many customers, it’s no wonder their product is so good.
Easily a 9/10 and a very big recommendation to go there yourself.
This name may not sound familiar to many, and for good reason. It had been known as Infused JLM until recently, when it rebranded.
Like Etrog Man, Haluta is primarily focused on drinks made from natural ingredients with health benefits. “The concept is that everything is infused with fresh herbs,” store owner Maor told In Jerusalem. “The main products we started with are these drinks made from fresh ingredients. Because we use a high percentage of fresh herbs, they also taste nice and have health benefits, since we preserve the essential oils.”
At the recommendation of Maor and another customer, I sampled an herbal infusion with mango and basil. These come in a few sizes and prices; the cheapest is NIS 16.
And I struggle to find the words to do this drink justice.
The mango flavor was very evident as its sweetness, combined with the small amount of sugar (sugar-free options are also available) shook through me, jolting me and relaxing me at the same time.
This drink, Maor explained, had a health benefit of helping reduce inflammation, and it boasts the healthy ingredients to back that up. But the taste alone would help shoot it to the top of this list.
It helps, too, that it is but one of a number of excellent flavors Haluta has to offer, with the cucumber, kiwi, and thyme drink being touted as another must-have.
What stood out the most about its taste is how different it was from other healthy drinks, such as those at Etrog Man. There, the drink tasted healthy. It tasted like an herbal drink that someone would tout as having health benefits.
But this isn’t the case with Haluta. If you gave this drink to someone and didn’t tell them it was an infused herbal beverage, odds are they wouldn’t notice. They might just think it’s a really good drink. And ultimately, that’s what it is. A really, really good drink. 10/10.
OF COURSE, these are just my personal rankings. While many establishments, such as Haluta, Rimon, and Power CoffeeWorks, are must-see places for anyone visiting the shuk, this list is by no means definitive.
Go explore Mahaneh Yehuda for yourself! Sample the many culinary delights the shuk has to offer. Who knows? You might find a hidden gem that’s even better. ❖