There is more to Greek liqueur than just the famed anise flavored ouzo with which tourists are well acquainted. Greece actually offers traditional liquors in vibrant and unexpected flavors derived from the nature of the Mediterranean landscape and has been perfecting these distinct drinks for over 600 years!
Tsipouro, the grandfather of Greek liqueur, is a type of grappa produced in Greece since the 14th century. It is a pomace brandy, meaning that it contains the skins, pulp, seeds, and stems of the fruit grapes. The history of tsipouro is particularly connected with Thessaly, Epirus, Macedonia, Mani Peninsula, and the island of Crete (where Cretans call it tsikoudia). It is a classic liquor that you will see old men in villages drinking as they eat their midday meals. During the hot summer days people will drink refreshing tsipouro to compliment roasted and grilled meat dishes.
The famous Greek liqueur, ouzo, has its roots in tsipouro and rose to its glory as a popular liqueur as far back as the 15th century. It all starts with pressed grapes, skins, and the tendrils of the plant found along the Greek vineyards. Although the liqueur can be found in a variety of flavors such as fennel, mastic, cinnamon, coriander, peppermint, ginger, cardamom and cloves, the most common ouzo has a signature anise aroma.
Another Greek variety of cognac vibrant in Greece since 1888 is Metaxa, which has an orangey zing. This liqueur based on brandy blended with wine and flavorings. There are five and seven-star Metaxas that leave a velvety taste of raisins, orange and honey. Also, there is a 12-year Metaxa which is much more syrupy in substance and has more of a caramel colored tone.
Of course there are drinks made from the resin of the mastic trees that are found on the Greek island of Chios. Made from the sap of the trees, mastika is an earthy refreshing flavored liquor that helps aid in digestion. Uses of the diverse resin are noted as far back as the 5th century BC. There are two different drinks to which mastika refers. Mastika Chiou is a brandy-based liqueur native to the island of Chios, while other drink is a strong spirit similar to ouzo or tsikoudia and is served cold or at room temperature with ice. In Greece, many bartenders substitute mastika for rum in mojitos, dubbing the new Greek version of the drink a “mastijito.”