Just in time for the hot summer sun, four friends and founders—Michael Sadler, Tamer Rabbani, Jilbert El-Zmetr and Mohammed Makki—have brought their love of what is said to be the first iteration of ice cream to the delight of Williamsburg with the opening of their Republic of Booza.
For those unfamiliar, the concoction can be traced back to the Levant region of the Eastern Mediterranean some 500 years ago and is made of sahlab (aka, ground orchid root) and mastic (a tree bark resin), which is then added to a freezer drum with milk and pounded with a long wooden pestle before being stretched by hand. The end result from the pulling and folding is smooth and creamy, yet dense—more so than any other form of ice cream—akin to the consistency of taffy. Ergo, there’s more flavor per scoop.
The four owners each represent four countries across three continents—America, Canada, Australia and Qatar—and met by happenstance. “[Our] serendipitous path-crossing was reinforced by booza’s natural gravitational ‘pull,’” adds Sadler, who says that the quartet firmly believes that this is truly the best ice cream in the world.
El-Zmetr traveled all over Lebanon to learn about the unique booza process, exploring how it’s traditionally made first-hand. The booza served here in New York is a reflection of both his research as well as his personal style.
The 700-square-foot space is adorned with the aforementioned freezer drums and wooden pestles, and is home to 35 flavors broken into three categories: Classic (like vanilla, chocolate and pistachio); Global (the original candied cream called qashta); and Experimental (salted Oreo, saffron peppercorn and coconut matcha).
But, does it melt? “Booza is indeed melt-resistant, but not melt-proof,” says Sadler. “It stays frozen for longer than other ice creams, but it will eventually start dripping—as is natural with frozen desserts.” Sadler also notes that there is about a one minute window where the booza can be pulled. “This is why making booza is more of an art than a science. You have to constantly balance and adjust temperature, pounding and stretching—all by feel—until you reach that sweet spot.” He believes that it’s certainly worth the wait.
The team hopes to expand their project to the rest of the boroughs and beyond. “If we can do this from Brooklyn, great,” says Sadler. “But if we have to go cross-country and around the globe, bring it on!”
Republic of Booza is located at 76 N. 4th Street in Brooklyn, and open daily from 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., with hours extending to 11:00 p.m. on weekends.
Images by Noah Fecks.