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Jade George: Cocktail Culture In Beirut


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Christalle Hang



Beirut, the capital city of Lebanon, is not only known for its vibrant culture, historic landmarks, and culinary delights, but also for its burgeoning cocktail scene. Over the past decade, the city has witnessed a remarkable rise in cocktail culture, with trendy bars and mixologists pushing the boundaries of creativity and craft. These establishments have transformed Beirut into a hub for cocktail enthusiasts and connoisseurs from around the world. With its cosmopolitan atmosphere and a fusion of traditional and modern influences, Beirut provides the perfect backdrop for the evolution of cocktails. From classic concoctions to innovative libations, the city’s vibrant nightlife scene offers a wide array of bars and lounges that cater to every taste and preference. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating journey of cocktail culture in Beirut, exploring its history, popular cocktail bars, signature drinks, talented mixologists, and exciting events. We will also uncover some of the emerging cocktail trends that have made Beirut a dynamic and thriving destination for food and travel lovers. So, whether you’re a seasoned cocktail aficionado or simply curious about exploring the world of mixology, join us on this virtual journey through the streets of Beirut, as we raise a glass to the city’s captivating cocktail scene.


The Rise of Cocktail Culture in Beirut

Over the past decade, Beirut has experienced a remarkable revival in its cocktail culture. This resurgence can be attributed to several factors, including a growing interest in mixology, the influx of international influences, and a desire to create unique and memorable drinking experiences. One of the key drivers behind the rise of cocktail culture in Beirut is the increasing interest in mixology. As people look for new and exciting ways to enjoy their drinks, there has been a shift from traditional beverages to more sophisticated and carefully crafted cocktails. This has led to a wave of talented mixologists emerging in the city, each bringing their unique creative flair to the cocktail scene. Additionally, the cosmopolitan nature of Beirut has played a significant role in shaping its cocktail culture. With a rich history of cultural blending and influences from around the world, Beirut has become a melting pot of flavors and trends. This diversity is reflected in the city’s cocktail menus, with bartenders experimenting with an eclectic array of ingredients and techniques to create innovative and enticing drinks. Furthermore, the rise of social media and the global food and travel industry has contributed to the popularity of cocktail culture in Beirut. Instagram-friendly bars and visually stunning drinks have become a phenomenon, attracting locals and tourists alike. The desire to capture and share memorable moments has become intertwined with the experience of enjoying cocktails, leading to an increased demand for visually striking libations. To cater to the growing demand, numerous cocktail bars and lounges have sprung up across the city. These establishments not only serve exceptional drinks but also offer a unique ambiance and experience. From sleek and sophisticated rooftop bars with panoramic views to hidden speakeasies with a sense of mystery, Beirut’s cocktail scene offers something for everyone. Overall, the rise of cocktail culture in Beirut can be attributed to a perfect storm of factors, including a growing interest in mixology, the city’s cosmopolitan nature, the influence of social media, and a desire for unique drinking experiences. As a result, Beirut has established itself as a vibrant and exciting destination for cocktail enthusiasts, where creativity, craftsmanship, and an appreciation for the art of mixology come together to create unforgettable experiences.


The History of Cocktails in Beirut

The history of cocktails in Beirut dates back several decades, intertwined with the city’s rich cultural heritage and international influences. While Lebanon has a long-standing tradition of producing quality spirits like arak, cocktails as we know them today have evolved over time. During the 1960s and 70s, Beirut was known for its vibrant nightlife scene and bustling bars, attracting an international crowd of jetsetters. It was during this time that cocktails started gaining popularity in the city. Classic drinks like the Martini, Old Fashioned, and Negroni became staples in the cocktail menus of high-end hotels and bars. However, the cocktail scene faced some challenges during the Lebanese Civil War in the late 1970s and 80s, as many establishments closed down, and the focus shifted to survival rather than leisure. It wasn’t until the city’s post-war reconstruction that the cocktail culture began to flourish again. The early 2000s marked a renaissance for Beirut’s cocktail scene. As the city rebuilt and experienced a new era of prosperity, a wave of young, talented mixologists emerged, bringing their innovative ideas and techniques to the forefront. These mixologists drew inspiration from international trends, blending them with local flavors and ingredients to create unique and exciting drinks. One drink that has become synonymous with Beirut is the “Lebanese Martini.” It is a twist on the classic Martini, infused with flavors of rosewater and orange blossom, paying homage to Lebanon’s rich culinary traditions. This unique variation is a testament to how Beirut’s cocktail culture blends international influences with a local touch. Today, cocktail bars in Beirut continue to push the boundaries of creativity and craftsmanship. They showcase a variety of styles, from classic cocktail lounges with elegant and refined aesthetics to modern establishments with cutting-edge mixology techniques. These venues attract both locals and tourists, offering a taste of Beirut’s vibrant cocktail culture. The resurgence of cocktail culture in Beirut is a testament to the city’s resilience and its ability to transform challenges into opportunities. Through a blend of history, international influences, and local creativity, Beirut has carved its place on the global stage as an exciting and dynamic destination for cocktail enthusiasts.


Popular Cocktail Bars in Beirut

Beirut boasts a vibrant and diverse cocktail scene, with numerous bars and lounges that cater to all tastes and preferences. Whether you’re looking for a sophisticated rooftop experience, a cozy speakeasy ambiance, or a lively and trendy atmosphere, you’ll find it all in Beirut. Here are some of the most popular cocktail bars in the city: 1. Central Station: Located in the trendy Mar Mikhael neighborhood, Central Station is a hidden gem known for its retro-chic vibe and creative cocktails. The bar takes inspiration from train stations of the golden era, with a menu that features both classic and innovative drinks. 2. L’Gros Luxe: Situated in Gemmayzeh, L’Gros Luxe is a laid-back bar known for its inventive cocktail menu and affordable prices. It offers a casual and welcoming atmosphere, making it a popular spot among locals and tourists alike. 3. Ginette: Tucked away in the hip Mar Mikhael district, Ginette is a trendy bar that showcases a wide selection of gin-based drinks. With its stylish décor and cozy atmosphere, it offers a unique and sophisticated experience for gin enthusiasts. 4. Internazionale: Located in the heart of Downtown Beirut, Internazionale is a chic bar that exudes elegance and charm. It offers a refined cocktail menu crafted by skilled mixologists, along with a selection of fine spirits and wines. 5. East Village: Known for its vibrant and energetic ambiance, East Village is a popular nightlife destination in Beirut. The bar features live music performances and a wide range of unique cocktails, incorporating local flavors and international influences. 6. Sud: Situated in the historic neighborhood of Saifi Village, Sud is a cozy and intimate bar specializing in craft cocktails. The menu showcases a fusion of classic and contemporary drinks, using high-quality ingredients and innovative techniques. 7. Coop d’Etat: Housed in a converted old warehouse, Coop d’Etat is a speakeasy-style cocktail bar that offers a sense of mystery and intrigue. It boasts a menu of meticulously crafted cocktails, featuring a combination of house-infused spirits and creative flavor combinations. These are just a few examples of the many cocktail bars that contribute to Beirut’s thriving nightlife scene. Each bar offers a unique atmosphere, innovative drinks, and a glimpse into the city’s vibrant cocktail culture. Whether you’re a cocktail connoisseur or a casual enthusiast, exploring the diverse range of bars in Beirut is an adventure in itself.


Signature Cocktails in Beirut

Beirut’s cocktail scene is known for its creativity and innovation, and many bars in the city have their own signature cocktails that embody the spirit and flavors of the region. These unique concoctions showcase a fusion of local ingredients, international techniques, and a touch of Lebanese flair. Here are some of the signature cocktails you should try when visiting Beirut: 1. The Beirut Sour: This twist on a classic whiskey sour incorporates flavors of pomegranate and sumac, a tart and tangy spice commonly used in Lebanese cuisine. It perfectly balances the sweetness of the whiskey with the vibrant citrus notes, creating a refreshing and distinctive drink. 2. The Za’atar Margarita: Inspired by the traditional Middle Eastern spice blend, this cocktail combines the flavors of tequila, lime juice, agave syrup, and a hint of za’atar, a fragrant combination of herbs and spices. The result is a unique and savory margarita that pays homage to the region’s culinary traditions. 3. The Arak Mojito: Arak, a traditional Lebanese spirit, takes center stage in this refreshing twist on the classic mojito. The addition of fresh mint, lime juice, and a splash of soda creates a flavorful and aromatic cocktail that is perfect for hot Beirut summers. 4. The Ras el Hanout Martini: Ras el Hanout, a traditional Moroccan spice blend, brings warmth and complexity to this martini. Combined with vodka, orange liqueur, and a touch of honey, it offers a delightful balance of sweet and savory flavors. 5. The Rosewater Spritz: Inspired by the fragrant rose gardens of Lebanon, this cocktail features a combination of prosecco, rosewater, and a splash of elderflower liqueur. It is a light and floral drink that is both elegant and refreshing. 6. The Mhallabia Daiquiri: This playful twist on the classic daiquiri incorporates the flavors of mhallabia, a traditional Middle Eastern milk pudding. Rum, lime juice, and a touch of almond syrup combine to create a creamy and indulgent cocktail with a hint of exotic sweetness. These are just a few examples of the signature cocktails that you can find in Beirut’s cocktail bars. Each drink offers a unique flavor profile and showcases the creativity and expertise of the mixologists in the city. Exploring these signature concoctions is a delicious way to experience the vibrant cocktail culture of Beirut.


Mixologists in Beirut

Beirut is home to a talented and passionate community of mixologists who have played a significant role in shaping the city’s cocktail culture. These skilled craftsmen and women have honed their skills and creativity to deliver exceptional drinking experiences. Here are a few notable mixologists in Beirut: 1. Joe Akkawi: With years of experience and a passion for mixology, Joe Akkawi is one of Beirut’s most respected mixologists. He has worked in some of the city’s top cocktail bars and is known for his creativity in crafting unique and flavorful drinks. 2. Jessica Boustany: Jessica Boustany is a rising star in the Beirut cocktail scene. Her innovative approach to mixology and attention to detail have earned her a reputation as one of the city’s most talented mixologists. She has a knack for marrying unexpected flavors and pushing the boundaries of traditional cocktails. 3. Tony Harb: Tony Harb is a seasoned mixologist known for his passion for storytelling through drinks. He creates immersive experiences by infusing Lebanese flavors, spices, and herbs into his cocktails, giving customers a taste of Beirut’s rich culinary heritage. 4. Sandra Khattar: Sandra Khattar is a dedicated mixologist who believes in the art of mixology as a form of self-expression. Her creations combine complex flavor profiles with stunning presentation, making each cocktail a work of art. 5. Elie Phely: Elie Phely is a highly skilled mixologist with a keen eye for detail. He is known for his meticulous approach to cocktail-making and his ability to perfectly balance flavors, resulting in exceptional drinks that leave a lasting impression. These are just a few examples of the talented mixologists in Beirut. Each mixologist brings their unique style and expertise, contributing to the diversity and innovation of the city’s cocktail scene. Their dedication to their craft and commitment to delivering memorable experiences have elevated Beirut’s cocktail culture to new heights. Whether it’s creating inventive flavor combinations, experimenting with unique techniques, or incorporating local ingredients, these mixologists continuously push the boundaries of what is possible in mixology. They strive to provide guests with unforgettable drinks that capture the essence of Beirut’s vibrant energy and cultural heritage. Next time you visit Beirut, be sure to seek out these talented mixologists and experience the artistry and passion that they bring to the city’s cocktail scene.


Cocktail Events and Festivals in Beirut

Beirut’s cocktail scene is not just limited to the bars and lounges scattered across the city. It is also home to a vibrant calendar of cocktail events and festivals that attract mixologists, bartenders, and cocktail enthusiasts from near and far. These events offer a unique opportunity to experience the creativity, talent, and innovation of Beirut’s cocktail culture. Here are some notable cocktail events and festivals in Beirut: 1. Beirut Cocktail Week: Beirut Cocktail Week is an annual celebration of all things cocktail-related. This week-long event features special cocktail menus, workshops, masterclasses, and competitions held across various venues in the city. It is a chance for mixologists to showcase their skills and for cocktail lovers to explore a wide range of innovative drinks. 2. BarRelief: BarRelief is a highly anticipated event that brings together renowned mixologists and beverage professionals from around the world. It offers a platform for industry experts to share their knowledge, exchange ideas, and collaborate on unique cocktail creations. The event includes seminars, tastings, and lively parties, creating an immersive experience for both professionals and enthusiasts. 3. Beirut Whiskey & Cocktails: This annual event is dedicated to celebrating the art of whiskey and cocktails. It features a curated selection of whiskey brands and includes cocktail tastings, masterclasses, live music, and food pairings. Whether you’re a whiskey connoisseur or a cocktail enthusiast, this event showcases the rich flavors and craftsmanship that go into making exceptional drinks. 4. Flair Bartending Competitions: Beirut hosts various flair bartending competitions, where talented bartenders showcase their skills in juggling bottles, performing tricks, and creating visually stunning cocktails. These competitions bring an element of excitement and entertainment to the city’s cocktail scene, as participants wow the audience with their showmanship and craftsmanship. 5. Cocktail Pairing Dinners: Many restaurants and bars in Beirut host cocktail pairing dinners, where expert mixologists collaborate with talented chefs to create exquisite culinary and cocktail experiences. These dinners feature carefully curated menus where each course is perfectly paired with a complementary cocktail, showcasing the harmony between flavors and enhancing the overall dining experience. These events and festivals are a testament to the vibrancy and creativity of Beirut’s cocktail culture. They provide platforms for mixologists to showcase their talents, inspire innovation, and create unforgettable experiences for visitors and locals alike. Whether you’re a cocktail enthusiast looking to expand your knowledge, a professional in the industry seeking inspiration, or someone simply looking to enjoy a unique and memorable drinking experience, the cocktail events and festivals in Beirut offer something for everyone. Mark your calendars and immerse yourself in the dynamic and exciting world of cocktails in Beirut.


Cocktail Trends in Beirut

Beirut’s cocktail scene is constantly evolving, with bartenders and mixologists in the city pushing the boundaries of creativity and taste. From unique flavor combinations to innovative presentation techniques, here are some of the current cocktail trends that have taken Beirut by storm: 1. Local and Seasonal Ingredients: There is a growing focus on sourcing local and seasonal ingredients in cocktail creation. Mixologists in Beirut are taking advantage of the country’s diverse agricultural offerings, incorporating fresh fruits, herbs, and spices into their drinks. This trend not only highlights the flavors of Lebanon but also supports local suppliers and fosters a sense of sustainability. 2. Middle Eastern Flavors: Beirut’s cocktail scene is embracing the richness and complexity of Middle Eastern flavors. Ingredients like rosewater, orange blossom, pomegranate, and za’atar are being used to add a distinct regional twist to classic cocktails. These flavors add depth and unique aromatic profiles to the drinks, giving them a unique Lebanese touch. 3. Artistic Presentation: Mixologists in Beirut are placing a significant emphasis on the visual appeal of their cocktails. They are incorporating artistic elements such as edible flowers, intricate garnishes, and creative glassware to elevate the overall presentation. The aesthetic appeal enhances the drinking experience and provides an Instagram-worthy moment for cocktail enthusiasts. 4. Customization and Personalization: A trend seen in many cocktail bars in Beirut is the opportunity for customization. Mixologists are engaging with customers to understand their preferences and tailoring drinks to suit individual tastes. This personalized experience allows guests to have a unique and memorable cocktail experience that is specifically crafted for them. 5. Low ABV and Mocktails: As the demand for healthier lifestyle choices grows, there is an increasing emphasis on low-alcohol and non-alcoholic cocktails, known as mocktails or spirit-free drinks. Beirut’s cocktail bars are catering to this trend by offering a variety of creative and delicious options that provide a refreshing alternative to traditional alcoholic beverages. 6. Craft Spirits and Local Distilleries: Beirut’s cocktail scene is witnessing a surge in the popularity of craft spirits and locally produced liquors. Many bars are collaborating with local distilleries to create unique cocktails using spirits that are made in Lebanon. This trend not only supports local businesses but also provides patrons with a chance to explore the flavors of Lebanon through their drinks. These cocktail trends reflect the dynamic and ever-evolving nature of Beirut’s cocktail culture. By embracing local ingredients, infusing Middle Eastern flavors, and focusing on customization and creativity, the cocktail scene in Beirut continues to captivate and surprise both locals and visitors alike. Whether you’re sipping a visually stunning cocktail, exploring unique flavor combinations, or enjoying a mocktail crafted with care, these trends demonstrate the ingenuity and passion of Beirut’s mixologists as they reimagine the art of cocktail making.



Beirut’s cocktail culture has experienced a remarkable rise over the past decade, transforming the city into a vibrant destination for cocktail enthusiasts. From the rise of mixology to the emergence of signature cocktails and the talented mixologists pushing the boundaries of creativity, Beirut’s cocktail scene offers a truly immersive and enjoyable experience. With its cosmopolitan atmosphere, Beirut has become a hub for cocktail innovation, where local and international influences blend seamlessly. The city’s rich history, diverse cultural heritage, and vibrant nightlife create the perfect backdrop for the evolution of cocktails. From the classic establishments serving timeless libations to the trendy craft cocktail bars experimenting with local flavors, Beirut offers a diverse range of choices for cocktail connoisseurs. Each venue has its own unique ambiance, style, and signature cocktails, giving visitors a wide array of options to explore and enjoy. The city also hosts a variety of cocktail events and festivals that celebrate the art of mixology. These gatherings bring together talented mixologists, offer educational workshops and masterclasses, and provide a platform for creativity and collaboration within the industry. As trends continue to evolve, Beirut’s cocktail scene embraces local and seasonal ingredients, draws inspiration from Middle Eastern flavors, and focuses on personalized and artistic presentation. The commitment to sustainability, customization, and innovation sets Beirut apart as a city at the forefront of the global cocktail culture. Beirut’s cocktail culture is more than just drinks; it is an experience that combines flavors, craftsmanship, and the warm hospitality of Lebanon. Whether you’re a seasoned cocktail enthusiast or simply looking to explore the world of mixology, Beirut offers an unforgettable journey through its vibrant and diverse cocktail scene. So, raise a glass and toast to the rise of cocktail culture in Beirut – a fusion of tradition and innovation that continues to captivate the senses and delight cocktail lovers from around the world.