Food and Drinks Greece is on a crossroad between Asia, Africa and Europe. Besides the importance of this key-position, Greece has been influenced by other civilizations and cultures and has also influenced others. For centuries there was an exchange of ideas, art, technology, food, knowledge. And regarding food, many ingredients, herbs, spices, and recipes were exchanged.There are plenty of famous and delicious traditional Greek dishes. A number of drinks, deserts, spices and herbs that are also considered Greek. Are they originally Greek? What is the story behind them? Let’s bust some myths regarding the most popular Greek dishes, herbs and spices.
- Souvlaki (Pita-Gyros)
The word “souvlaki” is synonymous with Greek food, whether the term refers simply to grilled meat on a small wooden skewer or the soft pita bread stuffed with meat, tomatoes, onions, tzatziki and French fries. Although many cultures have a meat dish on a skewer, archeological findings and writings clearly show that today’s souvlaki comes from the ancient Greeks. This food, known as obeliscos (the diminutive of obelos – “spit”), was even mentioned in the works of Aristophanes, Xenophon, and Aristotle among others. The skewered meat recipe existed as a favorite in ancient Greece during Archaic times with the earliest references to this practice in the works of Homer.
Some historians still claim that the baklava recipe has its roots in ancient Greece, where they made the ‘gastrin’, a sweet very similar to the current baklava. Others say that baklava originates from the Byzantine era. Greek professor Speros Vryonis defends the Byzantine thesis by creating similarities with a Greek dessert called kopton. Other historians believe that baklava is a culinary fusion of Turkish Central Asian flaky desserts and Persian fillings made from cooked, dried fruits (nuts, hazelnuts, and peanuts). Whatever the historical controversies, the fact remains that baklava is a delicious traditional dessert made of layers of crispy golden brown phyllo, filled with chopped nuts and garnished with lemon scented syrup…Just heaven!
The koulouri, a circular bread with sesame seeds, is the best product to appreciate the simplicity of taste. One of the most traditional Greek snacks that awakens the sweetest memories of our childhood is at the same time one of the healthiest sources of carbohydrates, proteins and other nutrients and energy. The classic Thessaloniki sesame-seed koulouri was the first to be made by the refugees that came to the second city capital mainly from Asia Minor. This sesame-seed koulouri is the one that has stayed in our hearts as a traditional Greek product that was sold by street vendors with hand baskets (called tavades) on their heads early in the morning. Although it does not have a registered designation of origin, the sesame-seed koulouri has been identified with the city of Thessaloniki as its history begins during the period of the Byzantine Empire and it mainly appeared in Istanbul and Thessaloniki. In Istanbul the vendors of the koulouri (called koulourtzides) trumpeted their merchandise with the name 'koulouri of Thessaloniki' and much later the same name was used by the street vendors in Attica. As far as its nutritional value is concerned, you can be sure that the koulouri is one of the healthiest and cheapest snacks you can find. You can eat it walking on the street, take it to work or combine it with cheese for a light and energizing meal.
The moussaka we all eat and know today is a modernized version, it’s a European version of a cuisine, first introduced to Greece via Turkey. Just imagine the next time you have a bite of this flavourful and delicious meal. Moussaka is basically not an everyday food dish – it’s baked as a special treat for guests & family on festive days. Greek moussaka is exceptionally healthy to eat due to the abundance of fresh vegetables used in the cuisine. It is commonly cut into small squares & served warm, not hot, as this food needs some resting time to firm up. It was mainly Arab people who introduced moussaka and the eggplant. A famous food and cuisine historian believes that in the 13th century, an Arabic cookbook which was then known as the Baghdad Cookery Book describes a recipe which could potentially be the ancestor of moussaka. Today, moussaka is a common and one of the most-loved food dishes in Lebanon and the Arab world – a moussaka version that consists of olive oil, garlic, eggplants, tomatoes and onions. In the early 1900s, Nikolas Tselementes, who was one of the most influential Greek cooks, published Greek cuisine recipes having a moussaka featuring yummy French béchamel sauce on top. His cuisine version is the moussaka we all know & love.
The young leaves of the grapevine are stuffed with a lemon-flavored mixture of rice, onion, and, frequently, ground lamb. Although dolmades with no meat are usually eaten cold as an appetizer, Greek dolmades with lamb are served hot as a main course with an avgolémono sauce of egg yolks and lemon juice. Other vegetables such as zucchini, green peppers, cabbage, and onions are similarly prepared. Apart from the uniqueness of its preparation, Dolma is a dish for many nationalities. It is loved and appreciated by Turks, Greeks, Lebanese and Armenians. They all believe that Dolma is their creation. The name of the dish was taken from the Turkish term dolmak, which means 'stuffed into something', but apparently just the name.Records show that Dolma was first prepared in the city of Thebes, an ancient town on the Nile River. The natives of Thebes stuffed seasonal meat and vegetables into vine leaves to make a dolma-like dish. Around 335 BC, Alexander the Great and his soldiers conquered the city of Thebes. The Greek warriors adopted the dish as part of their survival diet. Later, Alexander and his troops introduced the art of Dolma preparation to their homeland of Greece. The Greeks called it dolmades. They prepared it from minced lamb and rice, seasoned with garlic, currants and dill. As with all tasty dishes, it did not take long for Dolma to spread to other countries. From Greece, Dolma spread to Turkey, a country conquered by Alexander the Great. Dolma became famous in Turkey because of the Topkapi Palace. At that time, it was considered a noble food for the Sultan and other nobles. From Turkey, this classic cuisine spread to several other countries conquered by Alexander.
It is a traditional, rustic Greek pie consisting of a phyllo pastry layered with a filling of minced meat, cheese, or semolina custard. The name of the dish is a derivation of the Ottoman word pogatsa, denoting a pie filled with cheese. Bougatsa has origins from the Byzantine period, when Constantinople was Greek, and it began as a dough that was stuffed with numerous sweet and savory fillings. Over time, bougatsa evolved to incorporate a thinly rolled, hand-made phyllo pastry which only specialists can make. After the Minor Asia catastrophe in 1922, many Greeks that lived in Constantinople and Smyrna and were masters of this tasteful recipe, were forced to come back to Greece and they mainly were established in Northern Greece. So, bougatsa became a specialty of Serres and Thessaloniki.
A large number of the refugees from the 1922 Greek – Turkish population exchange were Karamanlides, Cappadocian Greeks who only spoke the Turkish language but wrote it in Greek characters. They left what had been their home for thousands of years and were relocated into Northern Greece. The resettlement was very hard for them as they had different traditions and they didn’t understand the Greek language. However, Karamanlides brought with them the art of pastirma, hence a serious income for some families came from its production and sale. Pastirma or basturma (Gr. pastourmas), the wind-dried meat has been made in Anatolia for hundreds of years. Apoktin, the Byzantine air -dried salted meat, was one of its forerunners. Apoktin could come from various meats, including pig, goat, wild goat, sheep, billy goat, even fish or cuttlefish but pastourmas comes mainly from beef or camel meat. A Greek refugee tavern- keeper from Iconium described how his pastourma was made “Υου get a camel or an ox, but a camel’s best, then you put it in an olive press, and you tighten it up till every drop of moisture has been squeezed out. Every drop! Then cut it up in strips and salt it, then lay it in the sun for a month or two – best of all, in the branches of a tree, so that the wind cures it as well – but in a cage, of course, so the crows can’t get at it.’ Then it is taken down and embedded in a paste of poached garlic and the hottest paprika you can find on the market, reinforced by whatever spices of the Orient are handy. When this has again been dried to a hard crust, it has the consistency of wood: it keeps for years. Thin slices, cut off with a razor-sharp knife, are normally eaten raw; The layer of tsemeni is an innovation of the past 150 years, however the simply salted pastourma (without tsemeni) is still found, under the name Roumeli pastirmasi.
Spanakopita, also known as spinach pie, is a savory pastry dish that has existed within Greek cuisine for a long time. The inside of spanakopita is filled with steamed and drained spinach, sautéed onions, feta cheese, egg and seasonings. These ingredients are then wrapped around a layer of phyllo dough, which forms the pastry’s flakey exterior. The pastry is cut into triangular or square pieces and brushed with butter or oil and then baked until golden brown. The origins of spanakopita are difficult to trace, although some say it may have originated in Greece over 400 years ago. The most delicious and authentic spanakopita recipes in the world are believed to be derived from the region of Epirus, in the north west of Greece.
People call it a dip, salad, paste, sauce; they say the name is Turkish, Persian… plenty wrote about it philosophizing, searching for its origin, from India to N. Africa and the Balkans! Tzatziki is Greek, no other country can claim the most famous Greek food in the world. The Ottoman Empire ruled over Greece from the 15th century until the 1821 war of independence.. During this period, it was mandatory to give Turkish names to all Greek foods; hence many Greek dishes still have names of Turkish origin. That’s all; the rest is just small talk. Tzatziki made Greek yogurt famous, and gave life to the tasteless cucumber. More garlic is used in Greece to make Tzatziki, than any other dish in our cuisine. There would be no gyros without it, no fried zucchini and no lamb on the spit without a side order of tzatziki.
- Greek salad
The Greek salad, a landmark of Greek cuisine worldwide: shiny-sweet tomatoes and crisp cucumbers, spicy white onions and green bell peppers, black olives. A thick slice of feta cheese on top of the mountain of fresh veggies. All rounded up with golden olive oil and aromatic dry oregano. Who can resist? 'Greek salad' for foreigners and 'Horiatiki' for Greeks, where horiatiki literally stands for “from the village.”Accompanied by a few slices of bread, the Greek salad is a complete meal with protein, fiber and carbohydrates. It was at the end of the 19th century, when the tomato entered the life of the Greeks, however, not as a component of the village salad. The Greek salad was invented by tavern owners in Plaka, at the foot of the Acropolis hill somewhere between the 1960’s and early 1970’s. And there were two significant factors that made them creative: the tourism development and the market regulations for plain salad consisting of just tomatoes and cucumbers. In order to escape the state-controlled pricing, the tavern owners added a piece of feta cheese. The trick helped them charge whatever price they wanted, and the Greek salad was born. In some countries they also add lettuce in the Greek Salad and the feta is in cubes. What do they know? Feta is cut on the plate with the fork by one of the many people sharing the salad. The tiny crumbles fall into the olive oil and tomato juice, so that the famous 'papara' , that is the bread soaked in the oil-tomato-oregano “soup”, is extra tasty. And guys! We don’t use cherry tomatoes for a traditional Greek salad. They are not juicy enough.
- Extra Virgin olive oil, olives
November signals the beginning of the olive harvest season which lasts until mid-January. Very few products are so linked with a place’s history and culture as olive oil and olive trees are regarding Greece’s cultural heritage. Endowed with strong symbolism through mythology and religion but also associated with gastronomy and a healthy diet, olive trees and its products are certainly a unique component of Greek and Mediterranean culture in general. From the olive wreath -the olive leaf crown (kotinos) awarded to the ancient Olympic Games winners- to Plato’s olive tree, under which the famous Greek philosopher taught his students 2,400 years ago or to the healing properties of olive oil mentioned by Hippocrates, this sacred and eternal tree has been praised since antiquity. During the war the messengers requesting truce were holding an olive branch as a symbol of peace. Greek olive oil is of supreme quality and its uniqueness lies, to a great extent, in the climate that the olives are cultivated in. About 65% of Greece’s olive oil comes from the Peloponnese, while the rest is produced mainly in Crete, the Aegean and the Ionian Islands. Today electrical machines are used to shake down the trees and the millstones have been replaced by modern mechanized presses, although some olive presses still use the stone-grinding method with the only difference that movement of the mills is now electricity powered. The pressing by stone is considered to create a more complex and healthier end product because this centrifugal action maintains the vitamins and the phyto-antioxidants. 80% of Greece’s olive oil is extra virgin, which is the top-ranked classification category in the world. There are literally hundreds of local varieties and tastes, including a number of organic producers which are positioning in the global high-value market with specialty and luxury oils. Greece is the third largest olive-oil producing country in the world, after Spain and Italy, producing more than 200,000 tones. Olive oil has also been used in soap manufacture as base for soap since antiquity. Olive oil soap is very mild, long-lasting and helps retain moisture and elasticity even in the most sensitive skin type. Even the residues that are left after the olive oil extraction process in solid and liquid form like paste, pomace oil or kernel wood can be used as an animal feed supplement, natural organic fertilizer or solid biofuel for energy production. It is no wonder that olives are praised as a “blessed fruit”! Greek olive oil is the basis of the Mediterranean Diet. As the main ingredient of every recipe found in Greek traditional cuisine, olive oil plays a dominant role in Greek nutritional habits. Greek olive oil is known worldwide for its purity, exceptional taste and high nutritional value. Besides, extra virgin olive oil is a superfood. Studies have shown that olive oil is the healthiest product among vegetable oils. It is loaded with antioxidants and protects from various diseases, therefore essential for a balanced diet! Apart from olive oil, olives themselves can be consumed as snacks or be used in salads, breads, pies or sauces as table olives. In this case different varieties of olives such as black Kalamata olives or juicy Amfissas olives are used.
- Feta cheese
One of the most well-known cheeses of Greece is feta. Feta has been made in Greece for thousands of years and may have even been described by Homer in Odyssey. In Greek mythology, the cyclops Polyphemus is considered the first cheese manufacturer. He discovered that after carrying the milk for several days in animal skin bags that the cheese had become solid and delicious. In 2002, feta Greek cheese was given PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) status. This means that only true feta is that which comes from Greece. Feta Greek cheese is traditionally made of sheep’s milk. Sometimes goat’s milk is blended in. Feta cheese must have at least 45 – 60 % sheep or goat’s milk. To achieve the best feta cheese, it is cured in brine and aged for 4 – 6 weeks. This helps the cheese to pickle and take on its sharp and salty flavor. High-quality feta Greek cheese is tangy with a creamy texture and a finish that is peppery and reminiscent of ginger. There is also a hint of sweetness to the finish. Feta is the most widely used cheese in Greece. It is a versatile white cheese that can be used as an appetizer, side dish, and as an ingredient in everything from salads to pastries. Depending on where in Greece the feta is made its flavor can vary slightly. It can be mild and sweet or tangy. Its flavor is rich and the aroma contains hints of wood and herbs as well as butter and milk.
- Greek yogurt
Traditional Greek yogurt is made of pure sheep’s milk strained in a muslin cloth bag to remove the whey (the liquid byproduct). This process gives it a much thicker, creamier consistency compared to natural, unstrained yogurt, and a much richer, tangier taste. Packed with calcium and protein, the straining process also removes some of the lactose, making it lower in sugar than regular yogurt. As Greek yogurt has grown in popularity far beyond the borders of Greece, large-scale dairy manufacturers have switched to using cow’s milk to keep up with demand, but the time-honored formula of straining and fermentation remains the same. All yogurt is made by fermenting milk with live cultures of beneficial bacteria known as “yogurt cultures,” but the reduced sugar content of traditional Greek yogurt makes it a healthier option. As such, it is often used in recipes as a healthier substitute to mayonnaise, sour cream or crème fraîche. Rich in calcium, eating Greek yogurt can improve bone health and reduce the risk of osteoporosis, a degenerative bone disease. It is also an excellent source of protein, which can boost metabolism and reduce appetite. Yogurt is also associated with probiotics, good bacteria that can restore healthy bacterial balance within the gut. Remarkably, studies have shown that probiotic yogurt can also encourage good mental health, too, reducing stress, depression and anxiety. This is likely due to the connections between the gut and brain, and the gut’s ability to produce neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine – hormones that modulate cognition and mood. Some research suggests probiotics found in fermented milk can also help reduce blood pressure. Bottom line, eating a moderate amount of Greek yogurt as part of a balanced diet can be a great way to boost overall health and well-being. Prehistorians believe early versions of yogurt or a yogurt-like product was first developed in the Neolithic Near East, some 7,000 years ago. Likely discovered by chance, one origin story points to Mesopotamian herders storing milk in goatskin bags. The combination of the intestinal juices from the bag and the heat from the desert caused the milk to ferment, producing a thick, creamy substance that resembled yogurt. In ancient Greece, goat and sheep’s milk was a regular source of protein and calcium in a diet that, for many, featured little meat. But without refrigeration milk turns sour, so the Greeks developed something called “oxygala” ,where ‘oxi’ stands for sour and ‘gala’ for milk – an early type of yogurt derived from sour milk. The 2nd century AD Greek physician Galen wrote that it was thick and usually eaten with honey – just as Greek yogurt is today.
- Spoon sweets
A guest arriving at a Greek home should expect an overwhelming array of traditional welcoming treats that will be presented upon their arrival, from coffee and cookies, to cakes, homemade liqueurs, and more. But there’s one sweet something that has long been linked with hospitality and welcoming in any proper, traditional Greek home: glyko tou koutaliou, or 'spoon sweet', a type of fruit preserve whose roots go way back to ancient times. For centuries, preservation was a necessary part of the harvest – it was the only way to make excess fresh fruits and vegetables last for as long as possible. Based on historic references, we know that the most common preservation methods included sun-drying fruits and vegetables or preserving them in either honey or grape molasses (petimezi), which usually involved first boiling the fruit. The ancient Greeks made something called melimilon (μελίμηλον): quince boiled in wine and then preserved in honey. It was through making this dish that pectin – a key ingredient in marmalade making – was discovered. Later, with the arrival of sugar to this side of the world and the gradual decrease of its price, preservation in sugar syrup began. Spoon sweets are fruit preserves that differ from jam and marmalade mainly in terms of texture – the ingredient being preserved should be firm and in a thick, transparent syrup, unlike the soft and pulpy texture of jam and marmalade. They are primarily made of fruit, which can be sliced, grated or even left whole, like figs, sour cherries or grapes. It’s also possible to make them from just the rind, which is usually the case with citrus fruit like lemons and bergamot oranges, but also with watermelon – just the white part of the rind – in the summer. You’ll also find spoon sweets made of unripened nuts, soft rind and shell included, as well as vegetables (tomato, pumpkin, eggplant and more) or even roots, like onion or beetroot for instance. A more recent trend in spoon sweets are those made from different types of mushrooms – while they might sound strange, they are actually quite flavourful. But the most delicate and aromatic of all are those made of flowers, like fresh rose petals, newly blossomed lemon flowers and other citrus tree florets, or even jasmine. Generally speaking, spoon sweets are made by boiling the fruit, vegetable or flower in sugar syrup with a lemon rind and infusing the mixture with spices or herbs like cinnamon, clove, vanilla, marjoram, rose geranium and more. Sometimes nuts are added too – most often whole white almonds – either to stuff the fruit, as with figs and tomatoes, or towards the end, to give it a crunch and an extra kick of flavor. Presentation matters for this type of preserve – there’s a reason they’re called “spoon” sweets. Back in the day, women would proudly present an entire jar of homemade preserves to their guests. Alongside it would be a handful of spoons and special small plates. (The most common being the small vintage crystal glass plates with ornate designs, with matching little spoons.) The guests would have to use their teaspoon to serve themselves from the big jar, placing a spoonful-portion onto their little plate. A glass of fresh cold water was (and still is) always served alongside the sweet treat. Nowadays, it is also common to top yogurt with a spoon sweet, with quince, rose petal and sour cherry flavors being particular favorites. Sour cherry spoon sweets are also typically served on top of the traditional ice cream flavored with mastiha (mastic, a resin that is widely used in Greece as an aromatic).
All the above, either originally Greek or not, are very popular in Greece and you can find them easily in Athens. Ask for them in the restaurants, the coffee shops, the food market and taste them at your first convenience, they are all delicious.The best areas in the city center for traditional Greek food are Plaka and especially Adrianou street, Monastiraki square and Athinas street, as well as Psiri neighborhood, which is very popular for any kind of food, coffee shops, nightlife etc. Especially at night Psiri is transformed to a place full of people, mostly young ones, that want to eat well, at reasonable prices and have fun.If you wish to move a bit out of the city center, there are plenty of nice restaurants, all the way to the Athenian riviera, the coastal road, starting from Palaio Faliro to Alimos, Glyfada, Voula up to Vouliagmeni. You can find any kind of restaurant, but mostly fish taverns, nearby the seaside. The prices vary according to the place and the category of the restaurant, but fresh fish is usually more expensive.Our proposal for a great view, just next to the sea, and with affordable prices is restaurant Panorama at Kavouri, Vouliagmeni.And if you want to learn more and taste most of the above, join us on a private food tour, a private tour with food stops or a cooking class. It is the best way to explore the city of Athens, as you will not see just the nice, clean, touristy areas of the famous monuments, but also the real city, where the heart of Athens beats, and this is the area of the market and the busy, surrounding little streets, that are full of graffitis, illegal immigrants and poverty. But if you don’t see both options then you don’t get the whole picture. Let’s walk Athens together and you will make the most of it!
- Ouzo, Tsipouro, Raki
We all know ouzo. The famous Greek drink that turns white when mixed with a little water or poured over ice. Traditionally, ouzo is both a welcoming drink and after dinner digestive. But ouzo is not the only aperitif offered in Greece. Tsipouro! Or, tsikoudia – or raki – (on Crete!) is also associated with hospitality and good company. All these alcoholic beverages look alike and complement a delicious array of appetizers. But they are not the same. They differ in raw materials and the way they are made. They are also different in taste and flavor.
Ouzo is a mixture of alcohol, water and various aromatic herbs, always including anise. In contrast to tsipouro, ouzo usually contains a small percentage of grape distillation. The final product is 40 to 50 ABV.
Tsipouro or tsikoudia are about the same, prepared – by distillation – and from the same raw material — stemfyla (grape marc). In other words, pieces of grapes, stems and seeds that are left after pressing the grapes for the new wine. Tsipouro, however, contains anise, while raki does not. Also, tsikoudia usually includes one distillation, which creates a difference in flavor and aroma. Similar drinks are the Italian grappa and the arrak of the Middle East.
Every autumn in Greece, there is a feast for the new wine when the pressing of the grapes begins. Then it’s time for tsipouro. From late October to mid-December, the beverage is prepared in traditional boilers. Feasts also take place around this process. According to tradition, the production of tsipouro began in the 14th century in the monasteries of Mount Athos and expanded, over the years, throughout Greece, especially in Macedonia, Epirus, Thessaly, the Cyclades Islands and Crete. Before 1990 there was no industrial production. Most commonly, undergoes a double distillation process to obtain the final product. Whole grapes or wine can also be distilled making the yield is higher. White and red grapes are used. The second distillation improves the quality and gives a cleaner product affecting the aroma and flavor. During the second distillation, flavorings are added, such as anise, fennel, cloves, nutmeg and mastic. Anise causes the white appearance of the drink when mixed with water or ice. On Crete, walnut leaves are used. The amount and proportion of added substances is the well –kept secret of every producer. Tsipouro is usually 36-45 ABV and is served in small glasses. It is most enjoyable when served chilled at 10o C or with some ice. A little water can also be added. It can be drunk neat but, more often, is accompanied by appetizers. Initially, simple appetizers, like cheese and olives, were served with tsipouro. Gradually, more complex and spicy dishes were added, alternating continuously, to fill the table with small plates. We do not eat to satiety or drink to get drunk. The goal is to enhance social interaction and create a pleasant disposition. Most often, tsipouro is drunk from noon to mid day. But due to its strong flavor and digestive properties, tsipouro can pleasantly close a hearty lunch or dinner.
Cretan tsikoudia or raki is distinguished from tsipouro because it is distilled only from tsikouda (the pomace of grapes pressed for winemaking) without adding herbs. In Western Crete is called tsikoudia, and in Eastern Crete raki. On Crete, the first licenses for home production were issued in the 1920s. Since then, the boilers are turned on at the beginning of October and closed in late November when a feast always occurs, which is a unique experience for the visitor. Tsikoudia is an integral part of Cretan tradition and hospitality. Every house has a bottle ready at any moment. Cretans welcome visitors with tsikoudia, festivities begin with the drink and it is at the center of discussions at cafes. Tsikoudia usually contains 37% alcohol and sometimes is served cold. If you want to add more flavor, you can use a peeled lemon or rosemary. It is accompanied by traditional Cretan dishes and complements roasted potatoes, olives, raw cabbage, cucumbers, snails and nuts. Often it is offered as a digestive after a meal. In most taverns on Crete, the drink is offered free of charge as a digestif with fruit and sweets after lunch or dinner.
Another drink of the same family, known to those who travel mostly in Greek islands, is rakomelo. As its name suggests, it is a fusion of tsipouro or raki with honey, with the addition of various flavors such as cinnamon, cardamom and others.
- Mastic Gum and Liqueur
When you chew mastic, you have no other experience like it. The first taste is bitter, but it quickly transforms into a refreshing, pine-like flavor. Every bite gives you a sense of being in a pine forest on a cold winter day, with an intense flavor that will make you feel as if you’re walking through the woods. The flavor is described by Jim Botsacos, the restaurant’s renowned chef, as a combination of fennel, anise, and mint. My point is that it is more than that. Although the flavor is intriguing and subtle, it is difficult to determine what proportion it is. It is an experience that should be tried by everyone who enjoys gum. Mastic has a lot of flavor and is also a good source of vitamins and minerals. It is thought to aid digestion and reduce inflammation, making it a healthy snack choice for those who want a snack with low calories. Mastic will stay with you for a lifetime, whether it’s for the taste or the benefits.
Mastic liqueur is a unique type of liquor originating from the Greek island of Chios. It is made from the sap of the mastic tree, which grows only in this region of Greece. The mastic tree is part of the Pistacia family and produces a resin-like sap that has been used in traditional Greek cooking and beverages for centuries. Mastic liqueur is a clear, sweetened liqueur that has a unique, slightly pine-like flavor and aroma. It is often served as an aperitif or digestif, or even as a cocktail ingredient. It is also used in baking and desserts to give a unique flavor and texture. In addition to its unique flavor, mastic liqueur has a range of potential health benefits due to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties. Mastic liquor has been known to have healing properties, and its use dates back to ancient Greece. It is believed to reduce stress and aid in digestion, and is often used to treat upset stomachs. Although mastic liquor is not widely available, it has recently seen a resurgence in popularity as more people become aware of its health benefits. Mastiha liqueur has an unmistakably unique taste that is both complex and distinct. It has a flavor profile that is both herbal and earthy, with a hint of sweetness and a subtle anise finish. It has a light, refreshing taste that is perfect for sipping neat or as an ingredient in cocktails. It has a slightly oily texture that lingers on the tongue and adds a layer of complexity to the flavor. Mastiha liqueur is an excellent choice for anyone looking for an interesting, flavorful liqueur to add to their repertoire.
- Greek wines, Retsina
The origins of winemaking in Greece date back to 6,500 years ago and there is dated evidence that suggests that winemaking in Greece even hosted the second oldest known wine in the world and the first evidence of crushed grapes in the world. The oldest wine press ever found was discovered in the ruins of Vathypetro, a village near Heraklion in Crete. Historians estimate that this press dates back to 2500 BC. during the Minoan civilization, thus representing the oldest wine press in the world for the production of wine. Greece is one of the oldest wine regions in the world and one of the top wine regions in Europe. Also interesting is the fact that the ancient Greeks always drank their wine diluted with water, which distinguishes them from the so-called 'barbarians' who drank their wine directly. The reason the ancient Greeks dilute their wine was because they wanted to drink all night during their symposia, but not to get drunk. In addition, ancient recipes of the father of medicine, Hippocrates, were found, demonstrating how important and sacred wine was for the Greeks. In these recipes, Hippocrates advised his patients to consume a spoonful of wine a day as a remedy. Greek wines have therefore been present since ancient times and for this reason they can be considered an integral part of Hellenic culture. During the Archaic period (7th century BC) viticulture spread throughout Greece with the development of winemaking techniques. In the classical period (480-323 BC) the famous Greek wines of antiquity met the then flourishing wine trade. In the following years up to 146 BC, the Aegean islands became important wine and commercial centers in the Mediterranean for the entire empire of Alexander the Great. After 1850 the first large cellars were founded and the first Greek winemakers appeared producing wines with titles recognized at European level. Around this time, Greek winemakers began sending their children to some of the most famous universities in the world to study oenology. Towards the end of the same century, when the French vineyard was almost destroyed by phylloxera, Greek wine is mainly directed to France and, due to demand, mainly currant wine (wine made from currant) is produced. There are also some types of wine typical of the Greek tradition such as retsina, which is produced using pine resins with a strong aromatic power. The modern age of Greek wine begins in the third quarter of the twentieth century. In 1971, Greek wines were classified for the first time according to their Designation of Origin, a process still being updated. In the last few decades, the modern renaissance of Greek wine has taken place and Greek wine tourism has begun to develop. Today there are 33 Greek wines recognized as PDOs that are produced in certain areas and with certain specifications. For example, in northern Greece there are the following six PDO areas: Amyntaion, Goumenissa, Zitsa, Naoussa (one of the best for red wine), Plagies Melitona and Rapsani. Or, for white wines, one of the most famous is the island of Santorini thanks to its volcanic soils. The same is for Central Greece, where some really interesting areas for producing good wines can be easily found: Muses valley, Nemea in Peloponnese. All are well known for white grape, red grape, and authentic Greek grape varieties. Small wineries that later grew strongly took the lead, and Greece today has state-of-the-art technology and many talented and enthusiastic winemakers. In this new era of Greek wine, Greek winemakers are dedicating themselves to indigenous grape varieties such as Xinomavro and Assystiko. The results are evident because, due to its diversity and uniqueness, Greek wine is now a 'trend' in the main centers of the world, while Greek wine tourism is constantly growing. Some of the tastiest and most famous Greek wines are: Assyrtiko, Moschofilero, Retsina, Agiorgitiko, Xinomavro, Vinsanto and Mavrodafni.
Retsina is the best known traditional Greek wine. Its reputation, not always positive, had long overshadowed that of other distinguished Greek wines and appellations. According to archaeological finds and countless written accounts regarding its production and consumption, Retsina, or “retinitis oenos” as it was called in antiquity, has been steadily produced for thousands of years. The main reasons for the use of pine resin used in vinification were the following:
Retsina is produced by the addition of the natural resin extracted from pinus halepensis (commonly known as Aleppo Pine) during fermentation of white and, in rare cases, of rosé wines. Having left only its aroma in the wine, the resin is then removed. The main grape variety used in the production of Retsina is Savatiano and, to a lesser degree, Roditis. Premium quality Retsina carries the characteristic balsamic aroma of pine which, however, does not inhibit grape aromas. The imperceptible sense of bitterness leaves a refreshing aftertaste akin to that of a carbonated refreshment, and makes Retsina the ideal companion of the flavorful dishes of traditional Greek cuisine. Only Retsina produced in Greece can carry the indication “Traditional Designation. The areas best known for their Retsina production and permitted to carry their designation on the label of Retsina are all in Central Greece: Attica (mainly the area of Mesogaia), Viotia and Evia
- The proximity of vineyards to resin-producing pine forests, especially in Central Greece
- It was used to seal the mouth of amphorae (ancient ceramic vessels used for storage and transportation of wine) and coat their interior for insulation and preventing the wine from coming into contact with the air
- Resin was added as a wine preservative
- Wine barrels made of pinewood (in later years)
- As an additive, it improved the composition of inferior wines
- It lent the wine its particular aroma (a vinification practice still in use today)
- Greek Beer
When people consider drinking in Greece, they don’t usually think of beer. However, there is definitely a culture of drinking this beverage in Greece and there are also many breweries located throughout the country. Here’s a look at the brief history of beer in the country. China takes the credit for being the first to brew beer and they have been doing so since 7000 B.C. or so. By 5000 B.C., the Egyptians also began brewing beer. Eventually, the tradition traveled to Europe. Beer was present in Ancient Greece, but it wasn’t popular. The northern Europeans, in particular, had embraced the beverage and this played a part in the beverage being shunned in Greece. They considered the northern Europeans to be culturally inferior to them and since this beverage was associated with them, many in ancient Greece wouldn’t drink it. It wasn’t until the modern age of Greece that beer drinking really started to gain momentum. When King Otto moved from Bavaria to become the King of Greece, many Greek citizens began to embrace beer according to the German style. In fact, the popular Fix brewery was founded in Athens in 1864 and is credited with being one of the first breweries in existence in modern Greece. There are other popular breweries in Greece now, such as Mythos, Alpha, the Athenian Brewery, and many smaller and local ones to choose from. Beer is now a beverage that is popular with locals and tourists alike. Many of those have been popular for decades, such as Mythos, whose blond lager is especially popular. Although other beers are popular in the country, such as Heineken, you may want to try authentic Greek beer so you can have the full experience.
- Greek coffee all types
The first coffee shop - or kafenio in Greek - opened as early as 1475 in what was then Constantinople. As the Ottomans occupied the majority of the Balkan countries, they brought coffee beans with them from Constantinople. In fact, Greek coffee was known as Turkish coffee up until the early 1960s, when relations between the two nations began to deteriorate. In 1974 when the Turks invaded Cyprus, the name was officially changed to “Greek coffee.” There are 3 main types of coffee served the Greek way:
Unlike other coffees from around the world, the Greeks have their own unique way of preparing it. Firstly, only the finest coffee beans are used. The brewing utensil used is called briki. Similar to a bronze coffee pot, small, but tall, shaped like a cylinder with a spout at the end for easy pouring. The drink begins with a heaped teaspoon of ground coffee and the desired amount of sugar. The sweetener gets added during the brewing process, and Greek coffee can never get stirred once made.The next step is the creation of the kaimaki; this is the froth on top. It needs to be very thick and cover the entire top of the cup. The kaimaki is formed once the water starts boiling and the ground coffee bubbles up forming a delicate foamy coating. Traditionally, the beverage is served in thicked-rim white cups, with a small handle and a tiny saucer. These are quite similar to espresso cups. A sweet pastry goes alongside the drink. A trip to Greece wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a kafenio. Coffee drinking is a social experience for all Greeks. Coffee time is a small ceremony over which Greek people gather together, bond and discuss daily life.
- For serious coffee drinkers, the sketos style is strong and bitter, made without any sugar. The beverage appears rather thick as the sugar hasn’t cut through the coffee powder.
- The most popular way to drink this coffee is metrios style. Boiled with a single teaspoon of sugar, this preparation is neither too bitter nor too sweet.
- For those with a sweet-tooth, glykos is the only choice. Usually made with two teaspoons of sugar; however, it is common for consumers to ask for their own desired amount of sweetness.
According to popular legend, the Greek-style frappe was invented in September 1957 at the annual Thessaloniki International Fair in the convention center of Greece’s second-largest city. Working at an exhibit for Andreas Dritsas, then the Greek distributor of Nestle products, sales representative Dimitrios Vakondios made an important discovery. Reportedly there was no hot water available. Maybe he merely desired cold refreshment. Either way, Vakondios grabbed a shaker meant for Nesquik, the Nestle cocoa drink, filled it instead with Nescafe instant coffee and a little cold water, and shook it vigorously. Not accounting for the burst of foam this action would generate, Vakondios achieved two results: The first outcome was the staining of his business suit; the second, was the invention of the foamy concoction that would become something akin to the identity soft drink of Greece. The hallmark of a Greek frappe is a foam so sensationally frothy that it resembles a cream. Coffee foams such as the crema atop espresso are generally produced by the proteins in the coffee. These proteins act as surfactants (surface active agents) which form a thin elastic membrane on the liquid’s surface area and entrap air. The main advantage instant coffee has over brewed fresh coffee for the purposes of foaming is that it can be prepared in a highly concentrated solution. When that solution is shaken there are lots of proteins to line the bubbles that form and help produce a thick, durable foam. In both its powdered and granular form, instant coffee is basically brewed coffee that has been dried to remove most of its water. The amount of water added back to it can be carefully controlled. A small quantity of water can be used to produce the foam. Then more water or milk can be added afterward to dilute some of the foam, filling the cup or glass beneath it with drinkable coffee liquid.
Freddo espresso / cappuccino
Freddo comes in two different variations, namely either Freddo Espresso or Freddo Cappuccino. Freddo Cappuccino is the iced version of the regular cappuccino coffee, and it usually has a small amount of cold-frothed milk (afrogala in Greek) on the top. Freddo Espresso is the cold version of espresso coffee, made with a double shot of espresso coffee mixed in a mixer with ice cubes. Particularly popular among those who prefer a cold, strong coffee, the Freddo Espresso has become the most widely-consumed coffee in Greece over the past ten or so years. According to many people, if you put some vanilla ice or liquor in one of these coffees, the drink will be taken to a whole new level of tastiness.