Whiskey Shamash

This Hanukkah cocktail uses fig syrup to create a playful twist on a whiskey smash cocktail.

Whiskey Shamash

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

Total Time:
5 mins

Sweet and savory fig, bright lemon, and smooth bourbon combine in this delicious take on a classic whiskey smash. At Maccabee Bar, a Hanukkah themed pop-up in Somerville, Massachusetts, bartender and owner Naomi Levy riffs on classic cocktails drawing creative inspiration from the flavors and festivities of Hanukkah and other Jewish holidays and traditions. During the holidays Levy transforms bar rooms into over-the-top celebrations of Hanukkah — think the Miracle Bar but in all blue and white. Maccabee Bar’s cocktails are playfully named and generously garnished, but are also thoughtfully crafted with so much care and excellent ingredients. 

The menu at Maccabee Bar is full of playful names for Levy’s creative cocktails and the Whiskey Shamash is a standout. A play on the classic cocktail this drink is inspired by, Levy evokes the shamash candle, the elevated candle on a Hanukkah menorah used to light the other candles—in Hebrew shamash translates to “helper” or “servant.” Through her menu, Levy creates an environment where Jews and non-Jews alike can share in Jewish culture, and learn more about the holiday of Hanukkah in a casual environment. 

In this cocktail, Levy plays with the traditional components of a whiskey smash — whiskey, lemon, and mint — but adds fig syrup for extra sweetness and depth. Served over crushed ice with a big sprig of mint, the Whiskey Shamash has a delicate, balanced flavor and a tantalizing aroma. Levy’s use of fig is also a nod to a prominent ingredient in Jewish cooking. Eaten throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean, figs bring delicate earthy sweetness to any dish or cocktail. In the Whiskey Shamash Levy leans on fig syrup, a cocktail-ready sweetener made from fresh or dried figs which are boiled with sugar and water before being strained out. The result is a silky syrup with the flavor of figs without any of the gritty seeds or pulp.

While Levy’s Maccabee Bar pops-up around Hanukkah, the Whiskey Shamash is truly a year-round cocktail. Sip it alongside fresh figs during fig season in the late summer, cozy up with its warming whiskey flavor during winter, but of course, make it during Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights.


  • 2 ounces (1/4 cup) bourbon

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

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fig syrup (such as Liber & Co. Caramelized Fig Syrup)

  • Crushed ice

  • 1 (2 1/2-inch) mint sprig

  • 1 dried fig, halved


  1. Combine bourbon, lemon juice, and fig syrup in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Place lid on shaker; shake briefly, about 10 seconds. Double-strain into a rocks glass; top with crushed ice. Garnish with mint and dried fig.

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