A soda from Levinsky 41 in Tel Aviv called Gazoz. A soda from Levinsky 41 in Tel Aviv called Gazoz. Gazoz, a soda that mixes soda water with fresh fruits, is enhanced at one Mediterranean Cafe. (Photo: Zach Pontz)

What is Gazoz? Warning, it may make you thirsty

A healthy take on an age-old treat draws people from around the world.

"Soda became too sugary, too unhealthy through the years," Benny Briga tells me as we stand and chat in front of Cafe Levinsky 41.

Briga opened the tiny cafe in the Mediterranean city of Tel Aviv, Israel a few years ago to serve coffee, but his menu's main attraction soon changed.

"People kept asking if I had gazoz," he said. "I just started making them for people and eventually incorporated a lot of different fresh herbs and fruits."

Two Gazoz at Cafe Levinsky 41The gazoz, in all its glory, is a perfect refreshment during a warm Mediterranean afternoon. (Photo: Zach Pontz)

Gazoz – the word is derived from both the French and Turkish languages – is what Israelis used to call old-fashioned sodas most commonly made from simple syrup and soda water – basically the same thing soda fountains in the States once served.

As Coca-Cola and other major brands filled the market with soda, the term went out of style.

That is, until Briga helped to make it fashionable again.

Benny Briga, the mastermind behind Cafe Levinsky's Gazoz.Benny Briga, the owner of Cafe Levinsky 41, started making gazoz for customers after receiving multiple requests to do so. (Photo: Zach Pontz)

He did this by making a version of gazoz that is, simply put, singular.

He includes an assortment of herbs, from sage and lavender to za'atar and geranium. Then he adds fruits like melon and strawberry plus the syrups he's made from infusing them in sugar water. Lastly, he tops it off with whatever soda water he can still fit into the cup.

Glass jars filled with fruits and syrups used to make Gazoz.Briga lets a variety of fruits soak in sugar water to create his syrups. (Photo: Zach Pontz)

It is a work of art, more reminiscent of a fruit cup the Queen of England might eat than a simple soft drink. It even comes with one of those straws that doubles as a spoon, suggesting that you're as likely to end up eating from the cup as you are drinking from it.

The version I was served involved sage, lavender, lemon syrup, lemons and oranges. I stared at it for a good while before starting in on it, and even then I felt guilty to have done so.

A patron of Cafe Levinsky 41 enjoys a GazozCera Felice, of Los Angeles, enjoys a gazoz in Cafe Levinsky 41's seating area, located in the flatbed of a truck. (Photo: Zach Pontz)

The gazoz comes in an assortment of flavors, all of which are at the mercy of Briga and his staff. See, Briga insists on maintaining complete control of the creative process.

"The customer can choose the size of the cup. That's it," he told me.

The Herb pile at Cafe Levinsky 41The herbs at Cafe Levinsky 41 nestle up nicely against the soda fountain. (Photo: Zach Pontz)

Briga draws people from far and wide for his gazoz, and they all say the same thing to him: "You should bring this to America!"

"New Yorkers especially tell me I should bring it there. I would love too. it is my dream," he said. "In Brooklyn especially, where there is an interest in artisanal products like this, I think it would be a hit."

Fortunately, for those who can't make it to Cafe Levinsky 41, it's not so hard to make your own. Just add whatever fruits and herbs you'd like to a bit of soda water and you've got your own gazoz.

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