The Athenian cocktail scene is booming. Bartenders are breaking rules, experimenting with new ingredients and molecular techniques to cook up sous vide spirits. They’re flying solo, making their own alcoholic beverages, mixers and bartending tools, continuing their training and taking part in specialized international competitions.
We chose six renowned mixologists and divided them into pairs, assigning each pair one key ingredient to use in their creation. Here’s what they did with thyme, Cretan dittany and the Greek tomato!
THE GREEK SALAD
At the bar that’s currently No 6 on the list of the World’s 50 Best Bars, Panos Kanatsoulis, the Greek World Class Bartender of the Year, draws inspiration from the Greek salad. He prepares a cool summer cocktail with gin and a sous vide mixture of tomato water, cucumber, pepper, lemon verbena and lemon.
The rim of the glass is sprinkled with a dust of dried tomato, yogurt and oregano, while the garnish is a few drops of extra virgin olive oil. All together perfect as an aperitif or alongside a Mediterranean pasta dish or a pizza.
The Clumsies, 30 Praxitelous, tel. (+30) 210.323.2682
The red snapper
Thodoris is considered one of the Greek capital’s most conceptual bartenders, creating cocktails that are impressive, convey an idea, support a legend or tell a story. Looking out onto the Acropolis from the 10th floor of the hotel where his bar is located, you can select a cocktail from a list inspired by Homer’s Odyssey.
For this challenge, Thodoris used the tomato’s acidity and flesh to make the Red Snapper, more of an hors d’oeuvres akin to a gazpacho than a cocktail. It contains gin, lemon, a blend of Spanish Pedro Ximenez sherry, tomato juice, pepper marmalade and mint, and is served with a stick of celery. Ιt is a hearty drink, perfect for brunch.
A for Athens, 2 Miaouli, Monastiraki, tel (+30) 210.324.4244
Τhe Aegean Tonic
Baba Au Rum was the first Greek bar to make it onto the World’s Best bar list, and it’s managed to stay on it, too. It’s also the only rum bar in Athens, with an enviable selection to choose from. Elias has been working here for four years and occasionally works for Mary Pickford in Piraeus as well.
Using thyme as his source of inspiration, he created an incredibly refreshing cocktail with just three ingredients in his signature less-is-more style. His Aegean Tonic is a blend of thyme liqueur, cucumber bitters and a premium mixer, a tonic created by the Greek company Three Cents.
This is a long drink with a low alcohol content that simply reminds you of the sea. It is very pleasant as an early drink before a night of bar-hopping or as an aperitif.
Baba Au Rum, 6 Kleitiou, Syntagma, tel. (+30) 211.710.9140
A Pear of Sangria
Uninterested in fashions and trends, 9 Bar is the perfect bar for the discerning drinker. Dimitris is one of those quiet forces who looks for balance rather than panache in his creations.
A Pear of Sangria, one of his menu’s five summer recommendations, is rich in the aromas of a Muscat of Tyrnavos blanc de noir, which is mixed with a homemade pear syrup and an Italian vermouth, cooked sous vide with wild thyme for added herbal notes and flavor complexity. Neither an apéritif nor a digestif, it is nonetheless a wonderful cocktail with an intensity and balance of flavor that will have you ordering another.
9 Bar, 9 Kolokotroni, Syntagma, tel. (+30) 210.323.2795
Τhe Divine Herbalists
Odori has become a staple for after-office drinks or an Italian meal, after making it in just its first year onto the list of the Tales of the Cocktail Top 10 new international cocktail bars. The place is designed to resemble a garden, with leafy plants all around giving it a cool, relaxed atmosphere.
The bar carries many excellent vermouths as well as vermouth blends that are made in-house. Manolis, the owner and head bartender who is best known for his aperitifs, has received numerous accolades in Greece and abroad.
The dittany he chose to work with has an intense herbal flavor that resembles oregano. He combined it with other classic Greek ingredients: tsipouro, honey and a new vermouth called “Otto’s” that is produced in Athens by the creative duo behind The Clumsies. The Divine Herbalists is a light and flavorful cocktail, almost like a soft drink, with a low alcohol content that makes it perfect for pairing with food.
Odori Vermuteria di Atene | 2 Skouleniou, Klafthmonos Tel. (+30) 210.331.4674
One of the first “new era” bars to emerge in Athens in 2011, 42 Bar is a proper high-end establishment that’s all about elegance, with a shiny wooden counter, well-dressed servers, a strict no-smoking policy and eclectic music kept at discreet volume levels.
Its pioneering owner Christos is responsible for shaking up the Greek bar scene by raising standards with the services he introduced. He continues to innovate today, not behind the bar, but by designing and manufacturing handsome and useful gadgets and tools for bartenders under the brand name Bassbreak.
In order to tame dittany’s bitter character, he uses gin and adds a flavor punch with a distillation of Muscat grapes. After adding the juice of half a cooked lemon, he puts tonic and chili, for a slightly spicy result. Le Minuet is a complex cocktail with a deep flavor profile, a discreet smokiness and vivid acidity – just as a master would make it.
42 bar, 3 Kolokotroni, Syntagma, tel. (+30) 6948.242.455