Greece is known for stunning beaches, idyllic islands and sunshine all year. It’s a landscape perfect for sipping wine, ouzo, retsina or any other fantastic Greek drinks that the people of this Mediterranean country have been consuming through the centuries.
In Greece, drinking is not merely a social event that bonds people together; it’s a part of Greek culture. According to the legend, Greek God Dionysus (Bacchus) was the first to turn grapes into wine. Socrates and Plato saw drinking as a way to exercise self-control by overcoming vices. So pick up your glass and ‘yamas’ your way through the tavernas of Greece.
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Greek Alcoholic Drinks
This traditional Greek drink is similar in taste to Spanish Sambuca.
Ouzo is a grape-based liquor diluted with water and combined with aniseed, coriander, fennel, and other herbs.
First concocted in 1856 in Greece’s Thessaly region, in the town of Tymavos, there are today more than 300 different brands of ouzo made in Greece, each with its own unique recipe.
Best served chilled, ouzo purists insist it should be drunk one part ouzo and one part water, poured over ice.
The ouzo and water combine to create a chemical reaction that turns the usually clear ouzo into a milky hue that is perfect for drinking with olives or cheese.
Mastiha or mastika is a popular drink made from mastic, a resin derived from Chios Island’s mastic trees that gives mastika its signature herbal-pine aftertaste.
Mastika is usually served ice cold right after a meal, but you can also mix it with Prosecco to create a pleasant aperitif.
Given that mastic, the drink’s key ingredient only grows abundantly on Chios Island, it’s in Chios’s southern region where most of Greece’s mastika is produced.
Venture to the island of Crete to savour some tsikoudia, the island’s liquor made from fermented grape pomace left over from the winemaking process.
Predominantly made on a small scale in local communities throughout Crete, no two brands or batches of tsikoudia taste the same.
Colloquially known as ‘raki’ by locals, tsikoudia is an excellent digestif, usually served ice cold after dinner accompanied by a serving of fresh fruits or traditional Greek sweets.
A staple of the Greek port city of Patras since the 15th century, tentura or tintura is an aromatic liqueur made from fermented citrus fruits, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and mandarin.
Its name comes from the Italian word ‘tincture’ and the bronze liqueur is best served on ice at room temperature.
Another popular way of enjoying this classic Greek delicacy is combining it with coffee to create a delicious ‘Espresso Corretto’.
First produced by Greek Orthodox monks from Mount Athos during the 14th century, Tsipouro is a popular Greek liqueur made in various regions throughout the country.
Not too different from ouzo, tsipouro is a strong liqueur produced from grape pomace left over from the winemaking process.
Another similar liquor, apostagma, is produced with the entire grape instead of pomace.
Although it was initially produced at home to avoid wasting leftovers from making wine, today tsipouro is popular throughout Greece and enjoyed by everyone.
Considered one of the softest and smoothest liqueurs in the world, Metaxa, which directly translates to silk, was first produced in 1888 by Spyros Metaxa.
Metaxa has an intense flavour and taste derived from the drink’s ingredients of aged Muscat white wine from the island of Samos, Mediterranean herbs and distillates that are blended and aged in wooden barrels.
Sold in over 50 countries globally, including Australia, China and the United States, Metaxa is not just a popular liqueur in Greece but enjoyed all across the world.
7- Kumquat Liqueur
The kumquat fruit that originated in China thrives on the island of Corfu.
Introduced to Corfu in 1860 by British agronomist Sidney Merlyn, the kumquat is one of Corfu’s main crops, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that the fruit was first used in liqueur.
Kumquat liqueur comes in two varieties; the sweeter ‘red’ version made from kumquat skins and the more bitter ‘white’ version, which is made from the kumquat flesh.
Whatever version you prefer, visiting Corfu and trying some kumquat liqueur is one of the highlights of a trip to the famous Greek island.
Tsikoudia is a key ingredient in Rakomelo, another of Crete’s most popular liqueurs.
Made with Tsikoudia, cardamom, cinnamon, honey, and various other locally grown herbs, Rakomelo was traditionally used as a remedy for a sore throat by Ancient Greeks but is today a popular alcoholic drink enjoyed all across the Aegean Sea Islands.
Rakomelo is consumed an aperitif and a digestif in Crete.
It can be found throughout mainland Greece, with various large distilleries producing the popular drink.
Even though you can enjoy Rakomelo anywhere in the country, if you want to try the best Rakomelo in Greece, you must try authentic Cretan Rakomelo.
Kitron enjoys the benefit of being one of only three Greek liqueurs with the Protected Designation of Origin honour, guaranteeing that authentic Kitron is produced on the Greek island of Naxos.
Made from the leaves and fruit of the Naxos Island’s citron tree, Kitron comes in three flavours, green, yellow and clear.
Green Kitron is sweeter and contains less alcohol than the stronger and more bitter yellow version.
Clear Kitron falls somewhere in between and is a good place to start if you’re trying it for the first time.
Despite gaining popularity in the early to mid-1980s, Kitron is hard to come by outside of Naxos as the drink’s key ingredient, citron, is scarce.
Vinsanto wine comes from the home of spectacular views, incredible sunsets and amazing beaches, Santorini.
Vinsanto grapes get their distinctive taste from Santorini’s rich soil, ocean breezes and anhydrous climate with humid nights, creating the perfect situation to produce this amber-coloured wine prized throughout Greece.
Vinsanto winemaking dates back to the 12th century, however, the wine only became popular after Vinsanto wines were introduced into Russia in 1783.
Today, Vinsanto wines are considered some of the best dessert wines in the world, winning a gold medal in 2019 at the oldest and largest wine competition in the world, France’s International du Vin.
Rivalling Vinsanto as Greece’s most famous wine, Retsina white wine, infused with Aleppo pine, is celebrated and enjoyed in Greek tavernas all across the country.
Retsina is much more budget-friendly than Vinsanto wines and is often mixed with sodas as a thirst quencher for the masses.
Despite being cheaper than Vinsanto, Retsina wines are not lacking in quality, especially in modern Greece, where wine producers are opting to create high-quality wines to compete on the international level.
Widely produced across the Aegean Islands, including Santorini, Assyrtiko white wine is another of Greece’s popular wines and has a distinctive citrus taste.
Grown in rich volcanic soil that preserves the acidity in the grapes as they mature, full-bodied Assyrtiko white wines are renowned for their pleasant fruity tastes and mineral-rich nature.
Agiorgitiko is a popular red wine in Greece and great for pairing with lamb, stew or pasta dishes.
Grown throughout various regions, including Nemea, where the Agiorgitiko grape originated.
The grape’s fruity and spicy taste is perfect for making rosés.
Sampling Agiorgitiko wines is a great choice while exploring this amazing Mediterranean country.
Greek Non-Alcoholic Drinks
Commonly referred to as Greek coffee, Ellinikos has been traditionally made using a briki or cezve, an authentic Greek coffee pot used to brew the grounded coffee beans and water on low heat until it starts to foam.
Much like everything else in Greece, no two ways of making Ellinikos are the same, with each person employing different methods of preparing this rich dark coffee.
Often called Turkish coffee due to the similarities between the way both are prepared, sipping Ellinikos and eating a sweet pastry while watching the world go by is one of the joys of travelling in Greece.
Although the name may be French in origin, the frappe we know and love today originated in Greece, when it was created accidentally by Dmitris Vacondios at a fair in 1957.
Vacondios wanted to make a coffee, but couldn’t find any hot water, so he mixed cold water with Nescafe instant coffee in a shaker to create the first frappe.
While you can order a great-tasting frappe anywhere in the world, the best way to savour the drink is by sipping it in a cosy Greek café in mid-afternoon while basking in the warm Mediterranean sunshine.
16- Espresso Freddo
This delicious Greek staple combines espresso and ice to create a smooth, frothy and slightly chilled drink.
First created during the 1990s, the espresso freddo is a morning staple in summer, when a chilled espresso is preferred over a piping hot one.
Using only two ingredients, espresso and ice, an espresso freddo is simple to make and refreshing to drink.
If you’d like to try making this popular Greek drink without travelling to Greece, mix espresso with ice, shake it and pour it into a glass to get that authentic Greek espresso freddo with a layer of foam on top.
17- Tsai Tou Vounou
Tsai Tou Vounou, or ‘mountain tea’, is not made from tea leaves at all but a Greek drink made from Sideritis, or ‘ironwort’, a plant that grows high up in the Greek mountains.
Rich in iron, natural antioxidants and essential oils, drinking Tsai Tou Vounou is good for reducing anxiety and stress, improving digestion, and strengthening your immune system.
Caffeine-free and floral flavoured, this refreshing brew of nature is excellent to enjoy at any time of the day and is a great pick-me-up if you’re feeling down or under the weather.
This non-alcoholic Greek drink is a popular one on the beaches of Greece, especially the beaches surrounding Athens.
Sour cherry juice and sugar are boiled and blended into a purple syrup mixture that is rich in vitamin C.
It is refreshing on a warm day at the beach.
You can order this Greek drink at restaurants and cafes in bottled form in Athens.
This almond-based non-alcoholic drink is a Cretan staple enjoyed all over the island.
Its rich history dates back to the 1394 Congress of Krakow when King Peter II of Cyprus presented the drink to Poland’s King Casimir the Great.
Cretans traditionally made Soumada using a mortar and pestle to pound almonds by hand, however, the invention of food processors made the procedure much easier and less time-consuming.
Often served at wedding ceremonies and presented as a welcome gift to visitors to Greek Islands such as Chios and Nisyros, this flexible drink is mixed with other liquids such as club soda or hot water.
Ayran is a yoghurt-based savoury drink popular across Greece and other Mediterranean countries, despite the drink’s roots being in Turkey.
Ingredients are sour sheep yoghurt, salt, water, and mint or other herbs.
It’s usually served chilled with a meal at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and comes in carbonated varieties, making Ayran a versatile non-alcoholic drink that is tasty and refreshing.
For more drinks around the world read:
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