For many Israelis, gazoz — a mixture of seltzer and flavored syrup — offers the same kind of nostalgic sensory flashbacks that something like Ovaltine might for Americans. But for Benny Briga, owner of Tel Aviv’s Cafe Levinksy 41, gazoz represents a world of whimsical and flavorful possibilities.
And that’s what he aims to spotlight in his new cookbook, “Gazoz: The Art of Making Magical, Seasonal Sparkling Drinks.” Written with Adeena Sussman, author of “Sababa” and co-author of Chrissy Teigen’s “Cravings” cookbooks, the book acts as a blueprint for recreating the Instagrammable beverages Briga’s known for.
His gazoz creations are as satisfying to look at as they are to drink. Herbs, leaves and flowers burst out from the cups of carbonated, fruit and spice-infused liquid. They’re so beautiful they could easily pass as table decor.
Briga describes gazoz in the book’s introduction as “a gorgeous, aromatic, colorful, zero-proof and altogether tantalizing beverage of fruit, fizz, flora and fermentation — liquid magic whose name is derived from the Turkish word for ‘gas.’”
Common Israeli wisdom indicates that the first gazoz business in the country opened in Tel Aviv in 1911 and the neon-hued, artificially flavored drink became part of the fabric of the culinary culture. Far from highbrow, it was a refreshing treat that could beat the heat and act as a beacon of enjoyment during a period of restraint and austerity.
Though the popularity of gazoz has risen and fallen, seltzer culture has experienced a massive global renaissance in the last decade. As Briga points out in “Gazoz,” seltzer-based drinks are “something that anyone of any age can enjoy at any time of day.”
But Briga takes that to the next level by mixing sparkling water with an endlessly customizable combination of fruits, homemade syrups and fermented elements. For him, gazoz should be experienced and enjoyed with all the senses, from the way they look and smell to the way the bubbles tickle your tongue.
These are not quick-fix drinks. They are cerebral and thoughtfully curated based on local availability, seasonality, taste and mood. The elements that make up each gazoz can take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks — in fermentations like kombucha — to prepare.
But once you make the syrups, spices and fermentations, which keep well, you’ll have the basis for future fast libations.
With sections covering topics like equipment, how to drink a gazoz and edible flowers as well as recipes for syrups, fermentations and, of course, gazoz ranging from fruity to vegetal to floral, this book is for anyone who wants to be inspired while enjoying a bit of culinary eye candy. And if you want to explore more non-alcoholic drink options, there are plenty of mocktail recipes everyone will love.
We snagged the recipe for peach gazoz, which is classified as a starter gazoz. Even though it is one of the least complex gazoz recipes in the book, making it is still a layered and multi-step process. There are the sweet fermented peaches in syrup, which take one to three days to ferment and fermented dried spices and chiles, which take one week. But once you have those elements and some simple syrup ready to go, you can whip up the fanciful gazoz of your dreams in no time.
Tribune Publishing may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.