santorini

7 of the Most Unique Beverages That Greece Has to Offer Visitors

Tourists who visit Greece should understand the unique drinking culture that exists in the country. The most traditional drinks are designed to be enjoyed with food, and it is rare for Greeks to drink alcohol without at least a little something to nibble on, even in bars. In the more rural parts of the country, complimentary small plates may be provided alongside glasses of beer or wine. A number of different traditional spirits exist in Greece, several of which have flavors that tourists may not expect, such as aniseed. Of course, Greece also has a rich wine and beer culture, along with some traditional nonalcoholic beverages. Some of the options that tourists may want to try include:

1. Tsipouro

A product interwoven closely with the Greek lifestyle, “tsipouro” is almost always found on occasions of hospitality or entertainment. The spirit is produced by distilling grape marc, the fermented skins of grapes otherwise used to create wine. Individuals may serve tsipouro in a number of different ways depending on the season and time of day. Sometimes, tsipouro comes chilled as a form of refreshment while at other times it comes hot. Many people drink tsipouro instead of coffee or wine, and the flavors pair particularly well with feta, olives, ham, and other mezze, as well as desserts such as halva.

2. Ouzo

People who have not yet visited Greece may still be familiar with “ouzo,” as it has become a popular spirit around the world while remaining intimately connected to Greek culture. Ouzo has a very strong anise flavor and aroma. Frequently, people serve it with a bit of water and ice in a small glass, a preparation that turns the clear liquid to a cloudy white color. The slightly sweet flavor of the beverage means that it pairs very well with small fish, as well as fries and other appetizers.

 

Ouzo

 

3. Raki

Also known as “tsikoudia,” “raki” comes from the island of Crete. A strong spirit, raki usually contains between 40 percent and 65 percent alcohol by volume, so travelers should definitely keep this in mind when they try it. People who travel in Crete will undoubtedly find the spirit, but it has spread to other regions of the country. Usually, raki is offered as a sort of digestif after a meal in a restaurant or taverna. The annual distillation of raki in Crete has become a massive celebration complete with food, music, and dancing. Usually, this event takes place toward the end of October or the beginning of November, so this would be an ideal time to come to Crete. Tsikoudia is the Greek name for the drink, but the Turkish word “raki” has become more popular. The term raki come from a similar Turkish drink.

4. Retsina

A uniquely Greek drink, “retsina” is a sort of wine cocktail that uses white wine or rose as a base and then adds the flavor of pine resin. The history of retsina stretches back thousands of years in Greece, and some say that the flavor profile comes from when Aleppo pine was used to seal amphorae and other wine vessels. The sealing process helped to keep air out while also adding the flavor of pine to the wine.

5. Greek Coffee

Travelers who have had Turkish coffee may think that the Greek variety is very similar. Unlike coffee from a lot of other places in the world, the Greek version is quite thick, as hot water is combined directly with very finely ground beans that are allowed to settle into the bottom of the cup. Individuals should be careful not to consume the grounds when they sip. What distinguishes Turkish from Greek coffee is the roasting process for the beans. Greek coffee uses beans that have not been roasted as long.

 

coffee-1220989_640

 

6. Metaxa

Many people around Greece drink Metaxa as a type of digestif after a large meal. The spirit tastes a lot like a sweet brandy. Unlike the other drinks on this list, Metaxa refers to a brand rather than a style. Produced in Athens since 1888, Metaxa has become one of the most widely exported spirits from Greece, so visitors may have seen it in other places around the world. The liqueur is made from white wine distillates aged in oak casts in an underground cellar before being blended with Muscat wine, rose petals, and herbs.

7. Masticha

Another Greek after-dinner drink is “masticha,” which is created from the aromatic resin of the mastic tree that possesses therapeutic properties. The tree flourishes only in the southern part of Chios, and the liqueur is produced primarily on the island. The production process involves the distillation of mastic, which can only be undertaken in Greece, according to legislation from the European Union. The product has become available in a few international markets, but there is nothing like trying it for the first time in its homeland.

Advertisements
spice

8 of the Most Common Herbs and Spices Used in Greek Cooking

From appetizers to desserts, Greek cuisine is known for its liberal use of spices and herbs. While a number of these flavor profiles are familiar to people outside of the Mediterranean, they may be used in very unique ways in this region. For example, cinnamon proves a common addition to savory dishes and is not used just for dessert.

However, some of the flavors will be less familiar to travelers, so it can be helpful to know what herbs and spices are used so you know what kind of taste to expect. Some of the common herbs and spices used in Greek cooking include:

 

  1. Anise

aniseCalled glykanissos in Greek, anise is a common seasoning in many baked Greek dishes, including a wide range of pastries. Related to parsley, anise can also be found in a handful of savory dishes, including beef and fish recipes.

Anise has a sweet character and is used very frequently in Greek drinks, including the popular ouzo. Travelers will also recognize the unique black licorice-like flavor of anise in tsipouro, another common Greek beverage.

 

  1. Mahlab

This spice comes from the kernel of a specific type of wild sour cherry. When used in pastry dishes, mahlab leaves behind the lingering flavor of cherry and bitter almond. Visitors may start to distinguish mahlab because of its intense aroma.

Perhaps the best way to taste mahlab is in the traditional Greek sweet bread tsoureki. This bread can easily be found around Easter.

 

  1. Cinnamon

cinnamonKnown for its slight sweetness and significant warmth, cinnamon has been a popular spice in Greece since ancient times. The English word cinnamon is actually derived from the ancient Greek name for the spice.

Visitors will find cinnamon in a variety of cookies, cakes, and sweet breads. However, it often has a place in meat marinades and may be used in dishes containing fish, poultry, and various types of red meat. For example, kapama is a dish consisting of braised chicken flavored with cinnamon.

 

  1. Saffron

Recognized as the most expensive spice in the world, saffron is derived from the red stigmas of the crocus flower. In Greece, the crocus of Kozani has become renowned for its high-quality saffron. The spice provides a flowery aroma and lends dishes a bit of a bitter taste.

Individuals can usually tell something has saffron in it from the orangish yellow color it gives to a dish. Greeks use saffron in pastries, cheese, liquor, and seafood dishes. In addition, it can often be found in rice, potatoes, and pasta, as well as poultry dishes.

 

  1. Oregano

While people may associate oregano with Italian cooking, it is actually one of the most popular herbs in Greece. The Greek word rigani refers to origanum vulgare, an oregano variety that has a slightly different flavor from other variations of the herb. Individuals will find this herb in soups, tomato sauces, bean dishes, and on meat.

oregano

According to Greek legend, Aphrodite created oregano. The herb has come to symbolize happiness and joy to the Greeks. Sometimes, the herb is used to create a tea that people believe helps with indigestion.

 

  1. Dill

The ancient Greeks would use dill to flavor wine, although visitors today would have some difficulty finding this product used for that purpose. However, the Greeks continue to use dill in a variety of different ways. Often, it is found in lemon sauces and paired with cucumber, although it can also be used in tomato sauce, soups, and salads.

Probably the most common utilization of dill in Greece is in its hearty, crusty bread. Travelers will also find dill in tzatziki, dolmades, and pies known as pitas. Occasionally, Greeks will still use dill in a drink, although today it is used in a tea that is meant to help people sleep.

 

  1. Cloves

People know cloves for their pungent flavor and their sweet, pleasant aroma. Because of the spicy and sweet notes of this spice, it is used in both sweet and savory dishes in Greece. As in the United States, cloves are used to flavor pies, tarts, and other sweets.

clove

However, Greeks also regularly add clove to fruits, walnuts, or even just honey. Furthermore, cloves may be added to liqueur for flavoring. On the savory side of things, clove is often paired with pork and beef, although it also lends a lot of depth to broths, especially when paired with onion.

 

  1. Coriander

Another member of the parsley family, coriander has historically been used as a medicine. In fact, according to Greek myth, consuming coriander could help secure immortality of the soul.

The spice has a very earthy flavor that leaves hints of citrus and sage behind. During the cooking process, coriander mellows out in terms of flavor and become much more delicate.

Greeks will use the seeds whole in some dishes or grind them for a more diffuse flavor. Often, the spice is paired with lemon as a flavoring for vegetables, poultry, and fish. Coriander is also often found in soups and roasts.