Greek spirits & liqueurs

Words by Simon Difford

Greece is a very old and traditional country, so it's perhaps not surprising that it boasts many traditional spirits and liqueurs, many of which are little-known outside of their domestic market.

All the countries bordered by the Mediterranean Sea seem to have a taste for anise flavoured spirits and liqueurs, and Greece is no exception, justly famous for its ouzo - best described as the Greek answer to French pastis. Less known are products such as Tsipouro, a grappa-like spirit distilled from grape pomace, which is sometimes also flavoured with star anise. Wonderfully fresh tasting Mastiha, liqueurs flavoured with mastic, a resinous sap which falls from the Lentisk bush and very particular to Greece, but is now finding its way into cocktail bars around the world. Then there is of course Metaxa, not a generic category but the brand name of a distinctive brandy-like spirit flavoured with rose distillate.

Follows a small selection of Greek spirits & liqueurs we sampled at the 2015 Athens Bar Show.

Skinos Mastiha
Clean and cleansing minerality, this is one of the best mastihas we have come across. 5/5

Tsilili Tsipouro Without Anise
A refined tsipouro with attractive pear fruity spice. 4/5

Dark Cave 5 Year Old Tsipouro
This aged tsipouro takes this very traditional Greek spirit to a new premium level with flavours of Christmas - fruitcake, honey, spice and nuts. 5/5

Tsilili Hamburg Muscat Grape Spirit
Grappa-like, very aromatic and well-balanced with black pepper, white grape fruit, rose water and smoothing oily mouthfeel. 4.5/5

Stoupakis Ouzo Kazanisto
Clean and cleansing star anise and black pepper with faint complex herbal undertones. 4.5/5

Homeric Mastiha
A traditional mastiha with minty and pine forest freshness, and mild black pepper spice. 4.5/5

Homeric Rose
Rose petal flavoured mastiha with piney and mint-like freshness. 4/5

Homeric Mint
As if mastiha were not refreshing enough, this mastiha has added spearmint flavoured freshness.4/5

OneDrop Mandarin
Slightly sweet and intensely flavoured with zesty mandarin, pine fresh mastiha and white pepper. 4/5

Metaxa 5 Star
A very aromatic and approachable, easy drinking, brandy-like spirit. Those expecting a dry brandy should be aware of this spirit's smoothing honeyed sweetness and faint rose blossom notes. 3.5/5

Metaxa 7 Star
Aromatic and brandy-like with pronounced floral, marmalade and plum fruit, gently spiced with black pepper. 4/5

Metaxa 12 Stars
Well-balanced and very fruity with honeyed sweetness balanced by black pepper spiced dry oak. Attractive floral notes throughout. 4.5/5

Metaxa Private Reserve
Lightly sweet and very fruity with fruitcake, lavender and blackcurrant boiled sweets (hard candy). 4/5

'M' Dry Mastiha Spirit Drink
As the name suggests this mastiha is differentiated by its dryness when compared to other syrupy liqueur-like Mastihas. Very refreshing in peppermint-like way. 4/5

Three Cents Pink Grapefruit Soda
The perfect grapefruit soda for a Paloma. Ripe pink grapefruit flesh and zest with well-balanced citrus acidity. 5+/5

Three Cents Plain
Clean soda water with good carbonation. 4.5/5

Three Cents Lemon Tonic
Drier with more pronounced bitter quinine and zesty citrus than other bitten lemons. Perhaps too dry for some. 5+/5

Three Cents Tonic Water
Dry and superbly clean with good quinine notes and invigorating carbonation. 5+/5

Three Cents Mediterranean Tonic
One of the best of the 'flavoured' tonic waters we've sampled, with distinctive cucumber, celery and basil flavours. 5+/5

Three Cents Ginger Beer
Good freshly grated ginger root flavours. Drier, less sugary than many other ginger beers. 4/5

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