So you’re interested in sampling some traditional Greek drinks during your vacation? Don’t blame you. Here I’m going to introduce you to some of the most famous Greek drinks.
Some Greek islands and particular areas of the mainland are known for their specific alcoholic beverages, so I’ll tell you about those too. Bottles of these drinks can be nice souvenirs to bring back from the places you’ve been.
Ok, let’s start with ouzo because this has to be the most famous Greek alcoholic drink. It’s officially the national drink of Greece, and it can only be called Ouzo if it’s an authentic Greek product adhering to set specifications.
What sets this apart from some of the other Greek spirits below is that ouzo is made from alcohol derived from grains rather than grapes.
You can find this aniseed-flavoured spirit all over the country, but some of the best ouzo you’ll taste comes from the island of Lesvos.
It’s served in a tall glass with either a bit of cold water or some ice cubes. The cold reacts with the aniseed, making the drink look cloudy, a bit like milk.
If you want to move away from the traditional, you can make up an ouzo cocktail with orange juice, bitter grapefruit juice or lemon juice and maybe a couple of mint leaves.
Enjoy Greece’s National Drink
Raki isn’t an exclusively Greek liquor since it’s the national drink of both Albania and Turkey. But in Greece, it’s sometimes called Tsikoudia (which originates from the island of Crete thanks to refugees sharing their craft during the Ottoman invasion).
There are reports of Raki coming from other parts of the country too and being used for health in ancient times.
I think it’s easy to get raki and ouzo muddled up. But while ouzo is an anise-flavored drink, and Turkish raki is too, Greek raki/Tsikoudia isn’t an anise-flavoured liquor.
One of the other main differences is that raki has a very high alcohol content. It’s usually about 40 – 60% versus ouzo which is normally up to around 40%.
Raki is generally served in a shot glass but don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re to knock it back in one. You serve raki cold and sip it from the glass, often accompanied by various small plates of food.
Cretan Raki mid-hiking and litter-picking trip
Rakomelo is raki served heated and mixed with honey and warming spices like cinnamon sticks and clove. It’s popular in winter, and you might be offered it as a home remedy to help with a cold or sore throat.
Tsipouro is an unaged brandy also made from grapes and very similar to raki. It’s distilled in the same way, but raki is always a single distillation, and Tsipouro is double. It’s during the second distillation that additional flavourings like aniseed or nuts are added. Tsipouro is often likened to Italian Grappa.
If you’re in Andros, then look up Androp, the island’s specific version of tsipouro.
Metaxa is a Greek brand of “one of a kind amber spirit”. It’s a range of aged brandy drinks featuring muscat wine from the Greek islands. They have some nice recipes on the Metaxa website if you want to try your hand at some Greek cocktails.
Tentura is one of the traditional Greek liqueurs from the mainland this one famously from Patra. It’s a dark, aromatic drink that smells like Christmas thanks to the cinnamon, nutmeg and clove that’s mixed with citrus fruits.
Tentura is usually served chilled in a shot glass, but it’s also nice as an digestif or in a cocktail too.
Mastiha (sometimes spelt Masticha) is made from the mastica resin of the Mastica/ Mastic Tree found on the island of Chios.
Mastica has been used for the therapeutic properties of its essential oils for centuries, and you can find it in lots of other products. There are entire Mastiha shops in Athens and Piraeus if you won’t make it to Chios this trip.
Like other spirits on this list, you can drink mastiha liqueur as it comes, with mixers or as part of a cocktail.
Kitron is my second favourite Greek drink. It’s a strong drink, basically raki, that’s been flavoured with leaves from the Citron tree. The leaves are picked over the winter months when their flavour is at its strongest.
Kitron is created exclusively in Naxos in three different strengths 30, 33 and 36%. You can tell the difference because natural colourings are added to create green and orange drinks in addition to the clear one (the strongest and least sweet one, which I like best.)
Kitron made exclusively on the Greek island of Naxos
In Greece, pomegranates are a symbol of good luck and prosperity; my landlady gave me a pomegranate decoration at New Year. This drink that comes from the fruit is a sweet drink, quite rich, that also captures the tangy tartness of the fruit.
Like many of the others here, it’s often taken as a digestif after a meal, as it comes, in a cocktail and I’ve heard it’s nice served in a flute glass with some prosecco.
Of Corfu’s many citrus fruits, it’s especially known for its kumquats. The island’s microclimate lends itself to this Asian import, and it’s used liberally for various gastronomic delights.
Famously the little golden fruit is used to make a fine liqueur that tastes of orange and strawberries. Locally it’s just known as Koum Quat/Koum Kouat.
You can use it to make a Corfu Coffee as well as have it on ice or in a cocktail.
Although traditionally an Italian drink, you can also find Greek versions of this. One respected Greek Limoncello comes from Katsaros Distillary near Larissa on the mainland, not too far from Meteora. But it’s also made in Corfu.
Greece has an abundance of lemons and their bright colour is reflected in this sweet tasting drink. It’s another one that’s great to have after a meal as a digestif or with dessert.
Vinsanto Wine from Santorini
Vinstanto from Thira/ Santorini is probably one of the most popular Greek drinks to take back as a souvenir. It’s been an export and source of income for Santorini for decades, thanks to the volcanic island’s unique terroir in which the grapes grow.
Vinsanto is actually a white wine despite its deep amber colour. It has a very sweet taste and is considered one of the world’s best dessert wines.
Vinsanto is a delicious drink and my favourite of all the Greek alcoholic drinks.
This is another famous Greek wine made from the assyrtiko grapes, indigenous to Santorini. If you visit the island, one of the best things to do is a wine tour. It’s interesting to see how the grapes are grown because it’s quite different to the way most vineyards are laid out.
The vines are trained into a “kouloura” wreath shape to protect them from the island’s harsh weather conditions (heat, wind, volcanic sand and lack of moisture).
The field right beside the car is a vineyard. On the right, the vines have been turned into a mini-market sign.
The same conditions create a unique terroir that’s reflected back in the wine’s striking mineral taste.
This Assyrtiko is made at a winery in the Peloponnese
Assyrtico wine is dry and white and goes well with seafood and haute cuisine.
Muscat of Samos
Samos island, close to Turkey in the Aegean Sea has been producing wine for thousands of years. Most famous is probably their Muscat Wine, a sweet dessert wine.
It tastes fruity and floral with hints of citrus and spice.
Retsina is probably responsible for giving Greece’s wine production a bad name over the years. When I first moved to Greece, I picked up an incredibly cheap bottle of wine from the supermarket. Mainly for the novelty factor because it WAS so cheap.
Anyway, it was horrendous, and I didn’t know what in God’s name I’d picked up. Retsina has historically been made with common and rather bland grapes and the use of pine resin during the production creates a rather unique taste.
Luckily Greece’s national wine has been getting a makeover.
Like Restisna, Verdea is another of the traditional Greek wines. This particular one comes from Zykanthos (Zante). Unlike the Assyrtiko from Santorini, Verdea is the name of the wine rather than the grapes.
This drink is a multi-varietal, dry white wine that includes unripe green grapes to increase its acidity. (Hence the name, coming from the French “Verde” meaning green.)
Nowadays, Verdea wine combines the traditional and the modern and is somewhat reminiscent of sherry. It’s an elegant drink aged in oak-barrels which leaves a nutty aroma.
This is traditionally a sweet, rich port alternative famously from Kefalonia island and Patras in the Peloponnese area of mainland Greece. I was excited to hear that it pairs well with chocolate desserts!
Mavrodaphne wine is matured for at least a year with some versions are aged for much longer. More recently, wine makers have responded to a trend of less interest in sweet wines and have created dry versions too.
Agiorgitiko is a grape used in red wine and widely planted throughout Greece. This grape is very flexible, and you’ll find it in a variety of wine types. Some are fresh, light and easy to drink. Others are dark, rich and complex. All are very food-friendly and you’ll basically find something to go with anything.
Although the grape is found in lots of varieties, it’s historically been a big part of the history and culture of the Nemea region in the Peloponnese. Legend has it the grapes taste the way they do because the vines were doused in the blood of the lion slain by Hercules.
Oinomelo wine, also known as Krasomelo, is a warm, mulled wine. It’s long been part of Greek tradition, one condoned by Hippocrates for the drink’s beneficial properties.
There are many versions, but generally, the -ideally- sweet red wine is loaded with cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and peppercorn. You might be served some with orange zest or star anise in some areas.
I have a whole separate post about Greek beer brands for you. There are various long-standing Greek beers that you’ll find in plenty of tavernas while you’re enjoying the local cuisine.
There are some up-and-coming craft breweries in Greece offering tours and tastings throughout the summer season. If that’s of interest to you, look out for them on the islands and trips on the mainland.
Best Way To Sample These Popular Greek Drinks
You don’t have to look far during your trip to find some Greek alcohol. You can enjoy it when you order Greek food throughout your stay or seek out dedicated tasting sessions in the places you visit.
If you’re lucky, your accommodation host might enough give you something tasty as a gift.
Do have a read of my guide to taking wine back on the plane so you know the best way to transport alcohol home.
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For more information to help your Greece trip go smoothly, have a look at this post about tips for first-time visitors, my car rental guide, some information about driving in Greece for the first time and this article about useful apps for travelling in Greece.
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