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Greece has a wide variety of spirits & liqueurs. Beyond the more famous spirits such as ouzo & tsipouro, many others are lesser-known but still worthy of your attention, whether you’re visiting Greece or looking for unique cocktail ingredients. On my visits to Greece, I’ve encountered many of these at cocktail bars and distilleries. Here are eight must-try Greek spirits & liqueurs that will give you a taste of Greece.
Ouzo is the most famous Greek spirit. It’s made by taking a strong, neutral spirit made from grapes & then distilling it with a variety of other flavors.
These ingredients predominantly include anise and fennel seeds, but each distillery also adds its own to the mix, including star anise, orange zest, coriander, cardamom, and ginger.
The highest quality ouzo has the label “100% by distillation”, which means no additional alcohol (which is cheaper) is added. If you’re looking for the best Greek ouzo, be on the lookout for this designation.
Ouzo is between 37.5-50% ABV. It’s frequently consumed with mezze.Book your hotel in Greece now!
Most Greeks mix ouzo with some cold water before drinking it. Cold water then turns the drink cloudy. This also makes the ouzo much smoother and more drinkable over a longer meal or a night out. Ouzo can also be included in a cocktail with orange or grapefruit juice or as part of a more complex cocktail with other Greek liqueurs.
Read about my visit to an ouzo distillery in Greece.
Tsipouro is an un-aged grape brandy. Usually, it is produced from pomace, the remains of the grapes that have been pressed. You may also know it as the similar raki from Turkey or grappa from Italy. All will claim that their version is the best.
Ouzo is a descendant of tsipouro, but both are made differently. While ouzo begins with a strong neutral spirit, tsipouro has a lower degree of distillation, thus retaining more of the flavors in the pomace.
Like ouzo, tsipouro is also often consumed with mezze. It’s served cold and sometimes diluted with water or ice. It is 40-45% ABV.
Tsikoudia is another Greek spirit that is similar to tsipouro. Tsikoudia is Greek raki from Crete and begins the process by fermenting in barrels.
Mastika (also spelled as mastiha) is one of the most unique Greek liqueurs. It is made from mastic tree resin from the island of Chios, the only place where the trees grow. Chios Mastiha has European PDO status.
Mastika has a slight piney flavor, making it an intriguing cocktail ingredient. It must be at least 15% ABV.
Kitron is another unique liqueur from Greece that is also produced from ingredients from just one island. Like Mastika, it also enjoys PDO status. It ranges in strength between 30 & 40% alcohol by volume.
The island of Naxos is famous for its citron trees. The trees produce citrus fruit, however, this fruit is not used in distilling kitron. Instead, distillers use the leaves of the tree. Each autumn & winter, leaves are harvested and dried, then distilled with added sugar.
Kitron can be consumed straight (generally as an aperitif), but it also makes for a refreshing cocktail ingredient. Most bars in Naxos serve kitron, with several of them using it for inventive cocktails that are some of my favorites in Greece.
Read more about my visit to a kitron distillery and kitron cocktail bars in Naxos.
Metaxa Greek Brandy
First off, Metaxa is not technically brandy due to EU rules. But that doesn’t keep people from referring to it as Greek brandy.
Metaxa (website) is one of the oldest drinks producers in Greece, having been in operation since 1888. It’s made from a combination of base brandies, Muscat wine from Samos, and Mediterranean botanicals.
The spirit is then aged in Limousin oak casks for at least two years, but potentially decades. It’s around 40% ABV and is often consumed as an after-dinner drink.
I first encountered the Greek spirit Metaxa at a cocktail bar in Santorini called Palia Kameni. One of their drinks was an homage to Greek drink ingredients. Called The 300, it featured Metaxa 12 Greek Brandy, Mastika, raw cane sugar, honey, & homemade Mediterranean bitters, all smoked with cinnamon wood chips tableside.
Rakomelo is a combination of tsipouro or raki with honey and spices such as cinnamon & cardamom. Its roots are from Crete, though it is also produced on other Greek islands.
If that sounds soothing and warming, it is. Rakomelo is typically served warm during winter and is often used as a remedy for sore throats and coughing.
Tentura is a Greek liqueur produced exclusively in Patras. The 25% ABV drink contains brandy infused with spices & herbs such as cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
It is most commonly served as a digestif or aperitif, neat or with ice.
Greek Fruit Brandy & Other Liqueurs
There are several other Greek liqueurs, including fruit brandies.
Popular fruit brandies include lemon, cherry, & more.
If you’re visiting Athens, I recommend checking out Brettos (website). They produce a wide variety of Greek liquor & offer tastings plus bottles you can take home as a souvenir.
One of the highlights of visiting Greece is trying all of these unique Greek spirits & liqueurs. I’ve enjoyed these drinks both on their own as well as in cocktails, & I look forward to having them again soon.