Last updated on January 22nd, 2020 at 08:01 am
Food in Greece is not complete without a drink or two. Even if you don’t like alcohol, there is always something new to try! Here are some of the Greek drinks, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, that you can enjoy during your holiday.
The King of Greek drinks – Ouzo with meze
Ask ten visitors which is the first Greek alcoholic drink that comes to mind, and you will most likely get one answer: ouzo.
This is one of Greece’s strongest alcoholic drinks, made from a combination of distilled grains or berries and several herbs and spices, including aniseed.
Ouzo is usually drunk with added ice and water, and for good reason, as it can be very strong for the uninitiated. It goes well with seafood and salty dishes, and it tastes much better by the beach.
There are several well-known brands of ouzo in Greece. We like Plomari – if you go to Lesvos island, make sure you try it! But even if you don’t, it’s easy to find it in most places in Greece.
Raki / tsipouro / tsikoudia
You may have heard of ouzo, but how about raki? Also known as tsipouro or tsikoudia, this is a strong drink widely produced and consumed all around Greece. It is similar to several other European drinks, like the Italian grappa, the Spanish orujo, and the popular rakija produced in Balkan countries.
After grapes have been pressed to make wine, the residue is boiled and further distilled. The end product is a clear, strong drink containing 40% – 60% alcohol.
Raki is often home-made, and raki-making is a popular activity in several areas, most notably Crete. Distillation normally happens in October and November, so if you are visiting Crete during this time it’s worth asking around for kazanemata. This is the process of distillation which is really a big fiesta, based on people getting together to taste the end-product and feast on local dishes.
A favourite Greek tradition that you will rarely see in big cities or touristy places, is the concept of tsipouradiko / rakadiko. This is a place that revolves around Greece’s strongest alcoholic drink, but also serves food.
The idea is that you order and pay for your drinks, and food comes along as a small side dish, or meze. The more raki you drink, the more expensive the meze that accompanies your order.
After ordering a few rounds, it’s not unusual to see shrimps and lobster coming up on the menu! This is an excellent way to discover the Greek culture – and you can even try to speak some Greek.
Rakomelo is a strong alcoholic drink which is perfect in cold weather. It is made of hot raki, honey, cinammon and cloves. It is sweet, strong, and definitely not for the faint hearted, or for children!
Rakomelo has been used as traditional medicine in many areas of the country, including Amorgos and Crete, so it must be good for you. This is one of the sneakiest Greek drinks, so make sure you’ve eaten something beforehand, especially if you are not used to strong drinks. Tip – sip slowly, do not gulp down!
Although beer probably isn’t the first Greek drink that comes to mind, there are good reasons why a visitor should consider visiting a restaurant that specializes in Greek beers.
These days, several Greek microbreweries offer a large selection of very unique and tasty beers. IPA, weiss, stout, pilsner – you name it, you’ve got it. Some of our favourite microbreweries include Voreia, Septem, Santorini Brewing Company, Chios, Piraiki, Delphi and many more!
At the same time, if you want to enjoy an easy-drinking, no-frills beer, there are plenty of options. Some of the most common Greek beers are Fix, Mythos, Alpha and Vergina. Along with staples such as Amstel, Heineken and Kaiser, they are quite easy to find, and ideally complement a nice meal by the beach.
If you have been to Greece, you may have heard of (or tasted) retsina. Although it’s arguably the most famous of Greek wines, it’s definitely not the most typical!
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of wineries around Greece, and every area has its own distinctive types of grapes. Listing all available types would take us weeks, and we won’t try.
If you like wine, ask around in the area you are visiting for the best varieties to taste. As a rule of thumb, a decent bottle of wine would cost 10-15 euro in a restaurant – but you will often find that housewine is fine, especially if you are drinking it by the coast!
Many popular areas such as Santorini have several wineries that you can visit. It’s possible to visit on your own, but if you want to visit several wineries on the same day, it might be even better to book a tour through a company. This way, you can all enjoy the tastings, without having to appoint a designated driver.
Mastiha / Tentura
There are many flavoured liqueur drinks in Greece, but mastiha and tentura have been gaining popularity in recent years. Both are highly addictive, and quite strong.
Mastiha is a unique sweet liqueur, flavoured with the resin gathered from the mastic tree, a small tree that only grows in Chios island. If you wanted an excuse to taste this drink, you should know that mastiha itself aids digestion. If you can’t find the drink but are keen on tasting its unique flavour, most supermarkets and some kiosks would have mastiha-flavoured chewing gums.
Tentura is a cinnamon-flavoured liqueur, used as a digestive and produced mainly in the Peloponnese. It’s not so common in bars or restaurants, but you can find it in specialized shops selling alcoholic drinks, called “cava”.
Greek Frappé and the concept of cold coffee
“Cold coffee? Are you mad?” – This is many people’s first reaction to one of the most common types of coffee in Greece, frappé. However, beware, because once you’ve tried it, you might get hooked!
To make a frappé you only need instant coffee, sugar, ice cubes and, preferably, milk. While cafés in Greece serve several other types of cold coffee, like freddo espresso or freddo cappuccino, we definitely suggest trying the frappé!
That is not to say that hot coffee is not popular, especially in winter months. Espresso, cappuccino and filter coffee are all available, as well as hot instant coffee and the famous Greek coffee.
Trying to find the difference between a “Greek coffee”, and a “Turkish coffee”, will probably lead you nowhere, as both countries (and not only) claim that this thick, strangely textured sipping coffee is their own invention. In fact you can find pretty much the same coffee in several countries, but when in Greece it’s best to call it “Greek coffee”.
Try it sketo (no sugar), metrio (little sugar) ot glyko (sweet), and beware – the thick, mud-like paste at the bottom of your cup is not to be consumed!
And while we’re at it – coffee in Greece is a huge thing, much bigger than the coffee itself. It’s about taking time to enjoy your drink slowly, while sitting at an outdoors café, looking at people passing by and talking to friends.
Much like Greek dinners, the Greek coffee culture is about spending time with others, taking time to think and enjoying the simple pleasures in life!
Tsai tou vounou
Tsai tou vounou, or mountain tea, is a herbal tea collected on the mountains, and used to produce a hot drink with a very distinctive flavour. You can drink it as it is, but many people add honey or sugar.
There are several other herbs that can be used to make herbal teas, like camomile or linden, but tsai tou vounou is the most popular one. It also makes for a special gift to take back home.
Well, we have this where I come from, you will say. It comes out of a carton. Sure thing – however, real orange juice made out of real Greek oranges is an entirely different thing.
With oranges being available pretty much all year round, the Greek portokalada is a childhood memory for many Greeks, and a delicious start to your day. Try it once, and we guarantee you’ll be shocked by the difference in flavour!
Do you have any questions about Greek drinks? Feel free to leave a comment below!
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