“This guy is amazing!” Niko from Israel exclaimed as he tried his second cocktail made by one of the bartenders mixing drinks with Otto’s Athens Vermouth. Meanwhile, a girl from India was discovering a cocktail made with curry at the Metaxa booth, a couple from LA made surprised faces as they sampled mastic drops from the ambassadors of Skinos, and bartender Ilias Marinakis was teaching a Greek group of friends how to mix their own drinks.
Every visitor to the Aegean Cocktails & Spirits Festival seemed as delighted as we were to discover that the cocktails, which were being mixed by the brand ambassadors of each spirit, were delicious.
Aegean cocktails, Mediterranean bartending, Greek spirits… you may have heard of all of these trends, but can you taste them as you say the words? The festival recently hosted by Bar Academy Hellas and Difford’s Guide Greece managed to give faces and flavors to the concepts.
One of the biggest lessons to be learned was the versatility of Greek spirits. Tsipouro (a grappa-like spirit) and ouzo are not just drinks to bring home from Greece as souvenirs, or to enjoy on lazy summer days at tavernas by the sea, but also worthy contenders for a spot behind any bar – or in your own drinks cabinet. Greece’s top quality spirits can more than hold their own as the base spirit of updated versions of classic cocktails, or entirely new and creative concoctions.
While watching the Parthenon above turn peach in the light of the setting sun, we sipped on more than a few of those cocktails with Greek twists, infused with flavors such as local herbs, citrus, and mastic (an aromatic resin). And of course we asked for the recipes.
by Paschalis Kapsalis
If you haven’t had mastic liqueur, made from the resin of the lentisk tree, the best way to describe it is pine-scented and mildly bitter, yet sweet. It is PDO protected, produced only in the mastihohoria on the island of Chios. In this recipe, it adds the bitterness necessary in a typical aperitivo-style cocktail. If you’re a fan of the negroni and Aperol spritz, you will love this.
Pour the mastic liqueur into a balloon glass filled with ice.
Add the vermouth, and top up with grapefruit soda.
40 ml Skinos Mastiha Spirit
20 ml Otto’s Athens Vermouth
80-100 ml Grapefruit soda
1 grapefruit twist, for garnish
by Alexandros Previstas
If you love a margarita, you must try this Tommy’s Margarita gone Greek. Instead of lime and tequila, it is made with lemon and Tsilili’s Agioneri Tsipouro from Meteora. It is a tangy summer drink perfect for sipping in the sun.
Pour the tsipouro, agave syrup and lemon juice into a shaker with ice and shake vigorously.
Strain into a glass with ice and garnish with a lemon wedge.
60 ml Agioneri Tsipouro from Tsilili
15 ml agave syrup
30 ml fresh lemon juice
1 lemon wedge, for garnish
by Anestis Zamanopoulos
The famous Greek brandy Metaxa is made from wine distillates and wines from the Aegean, and flavored with Mediterranean herbs. In this cocktail, its strong notes of oak wood and orange peel are unexpectedly but cleverly paired with a touch of curry. And it works.
To make your curry syrup, add the water, sugar, and curry blend to a small saucepan. Simmer at 50 degrees C for half an hour.
Remove the syrup from the heat and let rest for 2 hours. Then strain.
To make the cocktail, stir all the ingredients with ice.
Strain into an Old Fashioned glass with ice, and garnish with an orange twist.
50 ml Metaxa 12 Stars
20 ml Sweet Vermouth
10 ml Curry Syrup
2 dashes Black Walnut Bitters
1 orange twist, for garnish
For the curry syrup:
500 ml water
500 g sugar
2 1/2 tsp. of your favorite curry blend