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Two Israelis work to bring back historic, often esoteric, alcoholic drinks.
“Think of the word for ‘honeymoon,’” he said. “Ancient people in the Middle East would marry and receive gifts of earthen jars filled with enough honey wine — mead — to get them through the first month of matrimony. That’s the honeymoon.”
And what is the mead but a derivative of the ancient Hebrew word, “temed”?
Alcohol? “From the Arabic, al-kahil.” Circa 1500, it was Middle Eastern Muslims who invented the process of distillation.
Five years ago, Joov went on vacation to Amsterdam and found himself chatting with the proprietor of the rental apartment building in which he was staying. Dan Jullius, then 63, a former Israeli of German origin who’d spent the past 20 years in Holland, slowly opened up and realized his guest shared his zeal for alcohol. One day he said, “Come here, I want to show you something.”
“We went down to his cellar. There were dozens of bottles and test tubes and just all the drinks that he just sorcered up. Turns out this is his passion. Plums, cherry, ginger — he let me try it all,” Joov recalled.
Jullius confessed to Hargil that he dreamed of moving back to Israel, to the green northern hills of the Galilee, and opening a distillery.
“If you get there,” Joov replied, “call me.”
Two years ago he got the call. “Joovy, I’m in the Galilee! On some hill,” Jullius exhulted. “I want to do it. Want to do it together?”
“You bet!” Joov said. “Yalla! And the first thing we’ll do is Krupnik.”
Well, for one, “I have a beekeeper uncle, so I’ve got a sure source of honey,” Joov said. Plus, there were the drink’s ancient local roots. And, lastly, “it’s an amazing drink. This is not a drink than can be lost to the world.”
Jullius and Hargil ordered a one-of-a-kind, hand-wrought, copper pot still from a German artisan, installed it near the village of Kfar Tavor, and set up a small operation (so far, 1,500 bottles a year plus a line of brandy) using only three ingredients: honey, champagne yeasts and natural sourced water. It takes two years to reach full 80 proof maturity.
Today, you can find herb infused vodkas and honey-flavored spirits (some synthetic, some more or less true) throughout Northern and Central Europe, but you can find the real thing — an actual honey distillate, intoxicating and enticing as it gets, only in the Galilee.