The Sababa cocktail, created for Hanukkah, leans on a secret ingredient — tahini — for a balanced flavor and round, creamy mouthfeel.


Antonis Achilleos / Food Styling by Emily Nabors Hall / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

Total Time:
5 mins

Rich, nutty tahini forms the base of this savory, piquant, and tart cocktail. A zippy bite from zhoug, a spicy cilantro-based sauce from Yemen, is balanced by the sweetness of pineapple juice, rounding out this quaffable drink. Bartender Naomi Levy developed the Sababa cocktail for her Hanukkah pop-up bar, Maccabee Bar. The pop-up, which occurs around the holidays at different bars in cities around the East Coast, is Levy’s Jewish-inspired take on an over-the-top holiday themed bar. 

Levy’s menu at Maccabee Bar is filled with creative cocktails that draw inspiration from the flavors, traditions, and culture of the Jewish diaspora. For the Sababa, Levy leans on two common ingredients in Middle Eastern Jewish food, creamy tahini, and zhoug, a spicy condiment which combines cilantro and chili. The name for the cocktail, Sababa, is also inspired by Jewish culture. In Hebrew the word Sababa means “great” or “cool,” and is used colloquially in the same way Americans might say “that’s sick,” or “awesome.” It’s a laid-back word to describe something neat—think Hebrew surfer energy.  

The name of this cocktail perfectly describes the vibe of its flavor profile. Cooling pineapple juice and lime pair with rum in a combination reminiscent of beachy Caribbean cocktails. Though rarely used in cocktails, the addition of tahini in this drink is genius; the ground sesame sauce adds richness and body, and a bit of toasted sesame flavor, giving the Sababa a round and creamy mouthfeel and tempering some of the spice from the zhoug. The result is a balanced cocktail with just enough sweetness to play off the chili flavors, and a welcome hit of acidity that brightens everything up. Rum is really the ideal spirit for the Sababa, it has a subtle sweetness and a lushness on the palate that can’t be replicated. Whether you are enjoying this cocktail at a Maccabee Bar pop-up, or making it during Hanukkah, top this cocktail off with a heap of crushed ice and some pineapple fronds and this drink is totally sababa.


  • 1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) white rum

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons pineapple juice (from 1 [6-ounce] can)

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 1 lime)

  • 1 tablespoon simple syrup

  • 1/2 tablespoon tahini

  • 1 teaspoon zhoug

  • Crushed ice

  • Pineapple fronds


  1. Combine rum, pineapple juice, lime juice, simple syrup, tahini, and zhoug in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Place lid on shaker; shake briefly until mixture is chilled, about 10 seconds. Double strain into a rocks glass; top with crushed ice. Garnish with pineapple fronds.


Find zhoug at Trader Joe’s or online at

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