Bringing the Middle East to Brisbane with cocktails

A new summer cocktail list has dropped at bar and restaurant Za Za Ta, transporting guests from Brisbane to Tel Aviv, without the 20 plus hour flight.

The seasonal list compliments the bar’s signature selection of drinks inspired by distinctive and unique Middle Eastern flavours, not usually found behind the bar in Australia.

Bars&Clubs spoke to Za Za Ta’s Food and Beverage Director, Jared Thibault, to hear about this uncommon flavour approach, and how it’s been received by locals since the bar opened earlier this year.

“What makes us unique is the way in which we are connecting our drinks with Middle Eastern flavours using spices and local seasonal and indigenous Israeli foods,” said Thibault.

Thibault worked in collaboration with Bar Manager Braden Hargreaves to create the exotic drinks menu, which includes classic, seasonal, signature, sharing and low ABV cocktail lists. There’s also a specialised G&T menu, with five Middle Eastern twists on Australia’s favourite gin serve.

“I spent a week in the test kitchen in Sydney with our Executive Chef Roy Ner (Israeli born and calls Tel Aviv home) and Head Chef Dario Manca. Here, I was able to get a true feel for the Middle Eastern flavours by tasting dishes which are a modern twist to centuries-old flavours,” Thibault said.

“I also spent time with Roy at some of the local Middle Eastern markets familiarising myself with distinctively Middle Eastern flavours and aromas – from fresh produce, to herbs and spices. The array of unique flavours was mind blowing and very exciting to work with.”

Some of the unusual ingredients Za Za Ta’s bar team work with include market spices like cardamom and saffron, hibiscus flowers, beetroot and goat feta washed mezcal. They also make their own shrubs in house using seasonal ingredients, which is fitting considering the word shrub has its origins in the Arabic language.

“We want to take our guests through a journey of Middle Eastern flavours not commonly used in Australia. Each cocktail, same as the food, has a unique story behind it,” said Thibault.

With the seasonal summer cocktail menu launched on 12 December, it’s already been received well by locals. One of the consumer favourites so far has been the Jungle Cat, a spicy and fruity mix of tequila, mezcal, Campari, and the flavours of pineapple, citrus, harissa and agave.

Summer’s menu will be one of four seasonal changes to the cocktail list that Za Za Ta makes per year, with the most popular options then going onto the signature menu. Thibault said there are many reasons why this agility is key.

“It’s important to showcase local seasonal produce to ensure we’re serving top quality cocktails at Za Za Ta. Queensland has incredible access to an array of fresh produce, and we’ve put an emphasis on local produce which is indigenous to Israel,” he said.

“Season cocktail menus also keep our bar team creative! They’re always experimenting with new flavours, techniques to create a unique menu, which also matches the new dishes from the chefs.”

The low ABV section of the menu also launched just in time for summer, which Za Za Ta says is a Brisbane first. This is where the house-made shrubs are most popular, also being displayed decoratively in jars on the back bar.

A popular choice from this section of the menu is the Shakshuka Sour, a concoction of paprika infused Aperol, cumin and tomato shrub with aquafaba.

All sections of the cocktail menu are distinctive to Za Za Ta, complementing the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean inspired food menu. From 11pm, guests can still experience the synchronised flavours, with a late night street food style nibble menu.

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