Botanika cocktail bar brings Swedish style to Tel Aviv.

Botanika cocktail bar (photo credit: PR)
Botanika cocktail bar
(photo credit: PR)
In the last few years, Israel has been hit by the cocktail craze, with cocktails bars opening up all over the country, with Tel Aviv at the epicenter. Although each bar varies slightly in its décor and style of drinks, many are located in boutique hotels and have a strong emphasis on the presentation of the drinks, sometimes to the detriment of the taste.
Both the beverage and the food menu at Botanika in Tel Aviv are simple and elegant, with a focus on high-quality ingredients and clean flavors with a subtle Scandinavian influence.
Botanika is the brainchild of longtime friends Nick Sitbon and Tomer Poleg, two Israelis who met while working in bars and clubs in London. Poleg returned to Israel to work in the hotel industry, while Sitbon moved to Sweden, where he ran an award-winning international beverage consultancy agency specializing in concept and bar development.
When Poleg decided to open a boutique hotel, Ultra, there was no question that Sitbon would be his perfect partner for the bar.
In opening Botanika, Sitbon had the freedom to create his dream bar and include all the elements that he likes. He knows the market very well and wanted to get away from the dimly lit bars that serve what he calls “fool’s gold.”
Neither the cocktails nor the food at Botanika feature any unnecessary decorations or garnishes; everything they serve is edible and adds an element to the recipe.
We tasted a total of 11 cocktails from the extensive beverage menu. Although we enjoyed them all, we had a few clear favorites.
The Five Dollar Shake (NIS 48), made with Botanika’s own brand Aquavit #1, absinthe, vanilla, lemon, cream and soda, really tasted like an alcoholic milkshake.
I could have happily drunk those all night.
My close second was the Negroni Fragaria (NIS 48). Made with strawberry-infused Tanqueray gin, Aperol and amber vermouth, it can simply be described as strawberry yumminess. I favor gin cocktails in general, and the strawberry gave a nice fruitiness to this drink without being overly sweet.
My companion’s favorite was the Linneaus (NIS 48) from the citrus section of the menu, made with Wild Turkey bourbon, Hendrick’s gin, cucumber, ginger, lemon and Angostura bitters. She also enjoyed the more classical cocktail called The Curious Case of Botanika’s Sazerac (NIS 48), which was served in a beautifully leatherwrapped hip flask, with the bar logo embossed on the side. The names of the drinks are as creative as the drinks themselves, and there really is something for everyone.
Luckily, there were also some great bar snacks to soak up all the alcohol. The crispy pasta (NIS 15) was like grown-up Bissli, and the house bread (NIS 12) was served with finely shaved pecorino cheese with olive oil and a hint of chili. It was so good, we ordered two.
The bar menu was small, with a nice selection of dishes to complement the drinks. We tried most of the dishes on the menu and particularly enjoyed the vegetable sashimi (NIS 38) served with forged herb salt; and the daily catch fish tartare (NIS 45), which was beautifully presented wrapped in cucumber.
My companion enjoyed the crab flower broth (NIS 38) and the beef carpaccio (NIS 45) with pecorino and wild flowers. Other interesting dishes included the Tiradito (NIS 52), a white fish sashimi with lemon, hyssop, hot peppers and avocado; and the winter farmer salad (NIS 42), which was a chunky, substantial and uniquely flavored green salad.
Our only disappointment was the limited dessert menu. At this point I was craving dark rich chocolate, but the crème brûlée (NIS 36) with fresh berries was very tasty, even if it is a pet peeve of mine when crème brûlée is too cold at the bottom.
Botanika is a welcome addition to the Tel Aviv cocktail bar scene and a must-visit for real cocktail lovers. There are still a few cocktails we did not manage to try, and I will definitely be re-ordering the Five Dollar Shake with the bread on the side.
The bar has a Happy Hour from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. with reduced priced cocktails and is open as a coffee shop during the day.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Botanika Not kosher Ultra Tel Aviv Boutique Hotel 78 Hayarkon St., Tel Aviv Tel: (03) 933-0339 Monday and Tuesday, 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Wednesday to Saturday, 6 p.m. to last customer