Hot date toddies and pastrami pita pockets
There seems to be no end to the list of things cancelled in 2020, but Maccabee Bar is not among them. The Hanukkah-themed pop-up is returning for its third year with a month-long residency at Bow Market’s Variety Bar, which runs through Sunday, Jan 3.
“We’re really excited to be able to bring [Maccabee Bar] back this year,” says creator Naomi Levy. “I thought it was important to do it if we could.”
The bar features both indoor seating via Variety Bar’s second-floor space and its attached club, the Comedy Studio, and its own dedicated section of outdoor seating. In addition, patrons can enjoy Maccabee Bar’s food and drink at the firepit tables that populate Bow Market’s shared patio, which can be reserved for Maccabee Bar patrons on Wednesdays by calling 617-299-6339 (all indoor reservations can be made online via Resy; walk-ins are also accepted).
Within the Variety Bar/Comedy Studio space, which Levy notes has a heavy-duty HVAC system that will constantly pull in outdoor air, custom-built dividers will wall off tables to help keep guests safe. But not all changes made to the interior are safety specific—there’s plenty of festive decor on hand, including an illuminated, eight-foot blow-up menorah that will stand on the Comedy Studio stage.
“You walk into this space and it doesn’t whisper Hanukkah, it screams it,” Levy says.
As in previous years, the cocktail list will feature a mix of favorites from previous pop-ups and new-for-2020 creations. Among the returning classics are the sufganiyot-inspired Hebrew Hammer with vodka, leavened sugar, lemon and raspberry, and a Latke Sour composed of apple brandy, potato, lemon, egg white, and bitters.
Fitting for a year where dining and drinking is still being done outdoors, two of the new selections will be served warm. The Hot Date, a hot toddy variant inspired by Arab-Israeli cuisine, is made with rums, dates, and cardamom; and the rich Judah Maccabeet starts from a base of hot chocolate and adds cognac, cacao, beet syrup, and creme fraiche whipped cream. Other newcomers include Kosher Nostra, a negroni riff prepared with gin, tzimmes, amaro and Manischewitz; and the savory Jewish Deli that blends rye whiskey and aquavit with pastrami spice and sea smoke bitters.
Ordering food is now a prerequisite to imbibing, but Maccabee Bar has that state reg covered with help from Cambridge Jewish deli Mamaleh’s and chef Louis DiBiccari’s Humaari pop-up. The former will supply potato latkes and matzo ball soup, while the latter’s creations include smoked pastrami pita pockets, roasted garlic and lemon hummus, and chicken liver and tahini mousse. On the sweet side, assorted jelly donuts will be provided by pastry chef Kate Holowchik’s Lionheart Confections.
The other great dining reality of 2020—takeout—will be seen to by “Maccabee at Home” boxes, which must be preordered online and picked up between 2 and 5 pm on Thursdays and Sundays. Each will be filled with two single-serving cocktails, Humaari’s hummus and flatbread, and mini jelly donuts from Lionheart Confections, plus a dreidel, gelt, and “crafts and activities” that include Mad Libs and other amusements.
“It’s not just about having a bite and having a drink, it’s about having a whole experience,” Levy says.
Perhaps the most notable change this year is the pop-up’s longevity. Levy says the month-long stay—compared to 2019’s two-week run—is to ensure that the bar can be enjoyed by all of its fans while adhering to capacity restrictions. However, Levy has another reason that’s hard to argue with.
“All those Christmas bars go a whole month, and their holiday is only one day,” she says. “We have eight days, so why don’t we go the whole month too?”
Maccabee Bar will be open from Wednesdays to Sundays (including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve) through Jan 3.
Eric Twardzik is a Boston-based writer and editor with extensive experience in branded copywriting and journalism with an emphasis on food, drink, travel and men's lifestyle.