Greek cuisine has been central to its rich culture since the time of the gods. While most focus chiefly on the food, Greek drinks have also played an integral role in Greek life since the times of Ancient Greece. Like the Italians, Greeks are a very social people; they will find any excuse to get together with friends and family to catch up on each others’ lives, and often do so with traditional Greek drinks and food. Whether it’s liquor, beer, soda or coffee, social drinking doesn’t have to only mean alcohol. Here are some noteworthy Greek drinks:
Elliniko café: Or, Greek coffee, the Elliniko café is a very popular Greek drink. Made with a coarsely ground coffee powder, this java is sweet, pungent and is the perfect beverage for morning, or any time you need a boost.
Frappe: Another popular coffee drink is the frappe, an iced coffee made with Nescafé, milk and cold water. Although well-known American coffee chains like Starbuck’s introduced this chilly delight years ago, Greece had been making iced coffees long before. Frappes are the perfect cool treat during the warm summer months.
Ouzo: Arguably the most well-known Greek drink, Ouzo is an aniseed flavored distillate that packs a powerful punch. This clear spirit is often drunk with mezes, a selection of small Greek dishes.
Metaxa: A Greek brandy with a distinct, sweet flavor, Metaxa can be found in 3, 5, 7, 12 stars or Grand Reserve. Use lower-quality versions for cooking, mid-grade for mixing drinks and top quality for drinking neat.
Tsipouro: Made from the residue created from distilling muscatel grapes, this clear spirit is usually taken as a shot. Tsipouro is a great alcoholic drink in winter months, as it leaves a fiery trail down your throat!
Retsina: One simply cannot discuss popular Greek drinks without mentioning a great wine. Flavored with pine tree resin, Retsina has a very unique taste that usually takes some getting used to. Despite its ubiquity and economical price, passion for this wine cuts across all age and class barriers.
Although Ouzo is perhaps the sole Greek drink that most associate with the country, there is a very wide variety of beverages from which to choose. Whether you want to sample a Greek soda, wake up with an Elliniko café or relax with a familiar glass of Retsina, Greece has the perfect drink for you. So next time you visit your local Greek restaurant, try some Metaxa or Tsipouro along with your Ouzo!