It has the looks and feels of a legit bar, but it tastes quite different. Think wine and beer glasses minus the bitter and buzz-filled booze inside them. Think halal, think Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi city of Jeddah has always been known as the more lax city in the kingdom, especially when compared to its Riyadh counterpart. But does that mean legit bars with alcohol exist in the city? Certainly not. But there is (or was?) a "halal bar" that really tried to get people to turn on night-mode in the kingdom. According to several comments made by users on Instagram, the place was shut down by authorities sometime last week. StepFeed attempted to call Twilight Bar but there was no answer. The fate of the place remains unknown, but it's still worth some attention.
Twilight Bar & Lounge was attempting to change the nightlife in Jeddah by bringing music, halal drinks, and draft beer to the city. Its ambiance resembled that of a real bar minus all the alcohol buzz. "Changing the drinking culture," the bar wrote in a Facebook post.
I was first made aware of the place by someone on WhatsApp who claimed the Saudi city began selling alcohol at this one bar on Prince Sultan Street in Jeddah. Deep down I knew it couldn't be true, so I did a little digging and discovered that yes, the place exists - until last week - but is an alcohol-free zone.
An entire bar enriched with fancy glass bottles of wine, champagne, and even a draft beer machine, but don't be fooled by appearances, the drinks are all halal approved.
In one of the videos posted on Twilight Bar's Instagram page, the owner boasts about a bottle of Martini, an all-natural beverage launched by Bacardi. The drink is part of Martini's sparkling wine portfolio and apparently tastes like Spumante, a sparkling white wine from the Piedmont region of Italy.
The launch of the non-alcoholic drink initially came in response to a study that found that 24 percent of "British drinkers are keen to cut back on booze, rising to nearly a third (31 percent) for the 18-24 age bracket." And well, it seems the bottles have made their way to Jeddah.
It's probably safe to say that Twilight Bar served only the best of the best of bottles ... halal bottles, more specifically. But was it enough to get the seal of approval from conservative Saudis?
The bar served other types of halal wines. Bottles of Lussory, which describes itself as the world's best non-alcoholic wine, can be seen lined up in photos taken inside the bar.
Lussory wine has actually been halal-certified, as stated on its website.
"We are proud to announce and present the first wines that have 0% alcohol content, are 100% pure and bear the Halal certification," the description reads.
The brand operates in several countries around the world, providing department stores and retail chains with their products. Saudi Arabia is among the countries listed on their website under the "countries in which we operate" tab. Other Arab countries include the UAE, Morocco, and Tunisia.
Lussory's 24-karat gold suffused sparkling beverage made its debut in Dubai in 2014 and grabbed the attention of international media at the time. It's not clear whether that very same bottle took over the Twilight Bar in Saudi Arabia, but other bottles of Lussory surely did.
FYI, non-alcoholic wine isn't like grape juice
Non-alcoholic, alcohol-free, and dealcoholized are used interchangeably to refer to drinks with 0.0 percent alcohol by volume. Since wine comes from fermented grapes, does non-alcoholic wine mean grape juice? No, it's not as simple as that.
The process of creating non-alcoholic wine resembles that of regular wine in the majority of cases. The former isn't just crushed grapes emptied into a fancy glass bottle. The grapes usually undergo fermentation (like regular wine) only to be dealcoholized in the last stages of the process.
There are two ways winemakers go about removing the alcohol: distillation (extracting the alcohol through steam) and filtration (reverse osmosis until it becomes a concentrate).
Some businesses have been opting to produce wine-like beverages and beers without dealcoholization. Martini is one example; the non-alcoholic drink is made by adding a few preservatives to prevent alcoholic fermentation.
Saudi Arabia & Alcohol
In recent years, Saudi Arabia has been undergoing a major transformation in all kinds of different ways, but the legality of alcohol is not one of them. This is not to say the kingdom has been void of such rumors.
Following the announcement of the opening of nightclub brand WHITE in Jeddah as a pop-up lounge in 2019, rumors that Saudi Arabia will allow the sale and consumption of alcohol surfaced, despite the fact that it was explicitly stated that the "halal disco" would be an alcohol-free zone.
Consuming or selling alcoholic drinks is illegal in Saudi Arabia and violators are often subject to severe punishments including imprisonment and deportation. Although penalties for trafficking and consuming alcohol can be severe, many locals illegally consume liquor regularly in the country. Some fathers even brew alcohol in bathrooms while a number of mothers buy supplies to make wine in-house.
Traffickers have found creative ways to smuggle alcohol into the country. A shipment of 48,000 cans of Heineken beer disguised with Pepsi labels was discovered by customs agents in 2015. The truck carrying the load was stopped at Al Batha crossing between the UAE and Saudi Arabia after a peeling label made one agent curious.
Twilight Bar wanted people to know that bars don't necessarily have to serve alcohol to be labeled as such. An alcohol-free night can be just as entertaining. But let's see if the place will re-open in the kingdom or not.