Escape To The Mediterranean With The Spirits Of Greece


greek spirits vodka

When someone mentions Ancient Greece, it usually conjures images of the Parthenon or tales of gods and goddesses that have regaled us since childhood. But for those in the spirits world, Greek mixology > Greek mythology. The Mediterranean paradise produces a variety of unique spirits offerings from vodka to liqueurs that are steeped in a rich culture of history and tradition with flavors that range from anise and spicy to honey and citrus.

These spirits bring the essence of Greece to your glass, making it hard not to overindulge. The only explanation for Homer writing his classic epic poem, The Odyssey, out of chronological order must’ve been relishing in the enjoyment of Ouzo, right? There’s a whole world of boozy Greek beverages to explore. Whether you’re a philhellene or just scratching the surface with your discovery, we’ve enlisted experts to make sure your hero’s journey ends with helpful information, not a hangover.

To begin, it’s important to understand why Greece is such a magical place for creating luscious libations. Konstantinos (Kostis) Kalpaxidis, deputy METAXA master at The House of METAXA, explained it’s partially thanks to nature’s bounty. “Greece is world-renowned for the quality of its produce,” he says. “The local, first-class ingredients offer inspiration to distill, blend, and craft something different.”

Effie Panagopoulos, the CEO and founder of Kelos Mastiha Spirit agrees that nature plays a starring role in Greek spirits but thinks it’s more about the actual land. “Greece has so much bio-diversity on the mainland and the islands,” she says. “Ikaria alone, the blue zone, has 1600 indigenous herbs. Crete has so many microgreens and mountain greens that grow wild, and the beauty of Greece is that it still hasn’t been tainted by industrial farming.” She adds that because of this, most of the crops are organic and “pure and unadulterated.”

Jason Hedges, director of beverage at Laurent Tourondel Hospitality and co-founder of Bar-IQ, cites Greece’s respect for its heritage and the ancient production processes for the uniqueness of its local spirits. “Greece has preserved traditional distillation methods for centuries, passing them down through generations,” he notes. “These time-honored techniques, combined with modern technology enable producers to craft high-quality spirits.”

Below, is a breakdown of some of Greece’s most popular liquors and spirits.

Ekaterina Markelova/Getty Images


Vodka is synonymous with Russia and while that’s true of traditional potato vodka, Greece has given the spirit its own spin. Enter, olives. “Olives are very big in Greek culture and part of everyday life,” Frank Mihalopoulos, chief technology officer, master blender, and co-founder of Kástra Elión Vodka explains. “It is produced similarly to traditional vodka, but the olives combined with grain make it truly unique.” The olives, he says make the spirit smoother and more full-bodied and give it “a subtle salinity and buttery finish.”


“I call Mastiha Greece’s best-kept secret,” Panagopoulos says of the spirit made from the raw superfood of the same name. “It is a sap/resin from the skinos tree that grows only in 24 villages in the southern part of the Greek island of Chios.” The spirit is also a PDO — Protected Designation of Origin — an EU designation for ingredients that grow in only one specific geographic region, making it similar to Tequila, Champagne, and Cognac.

As far as taste goes, she says it couldn’t be more versatile. “It’s been called ‘bartender’s olive oil’ since it is so versatile and mixes 1:1 with very base spirit on your backbar — vodka, gin, tequila, mezcal, whiskey — you name it, it goes with it.” But if she had to describe the taste, she’s adamant. “I say it’s St. Germain, Chartreuse, and Hendricks [if they] had a three-way.”


Kalpaxidis emphasizes METAXA’s history, stating that it’s been part of Greece and its culture since 1890. “METAXA is a fascinating marriage between sweet Muscat wines from Greece, fine-aged wine distillates, and Mediterranean botanicals, matured together in oak casks in our cellars in Athens,” he details. When it comes to using METAXA, he suggests infusing it as a “Greek twist” to any classic cocktail, but says it pairs best with orange peel or orange bitters. He also says it can be sipped alone neat or on ice.


Possibly the most widely known of the Greek spirits, Hedges explains it’s, “made from distilled grape must and macerated flavoring ingredients, most notably aniseed,” and describes the flavor as intense and licorice-like. “It is traditionally served either straight in a small narrow-shaped glass, which helps to concentrate the aromas, or more commonly diluted with water and the addition of ice,” he adds.


Hedges says “thrifty Greek winemakers” use the pomace of grapes (skins, seeds, and stems) after they have been pressed for winemaking to make this strong, un-aged spirit. “Tsipouro retains the essence of the grapes and has a distinct grape-y aroma and flavor. It may also have fruity notes of citrus and orchard fruits, herbal notes of anise and fennel, and even spicy notes of pepper or cinnamon. It is traditionally served straight in small glasses at room temperature, as this allows the true character of the spirit to shine through.”


Greek Spirits Rules Of Thumb

If you’re concerned about how to go about shopping for a Greek spirit, there are some hacks to make the search a bit easier. “Look for bottles that indicate traditional production methods or highlight specific ingredients used,” Hedges recommends. “Some labels might also mention age statements, which can provide an idea of the spirit's quality.”

If you’re looking for Mastiha, Panagopoulos urges customers to look for the stamp from the Chios Mastiha Growers Association. “That is the only way to verify a product has authentic PDO Chios Mastiha,” she says. “A lot of artificial flavor and aroma runs rampant in Greece, because the raw ingredients are expensive.”

When it comes to the rest of your Greek cocktail Hedges suggests using other ingredients traditionally found in Greek cuisine like fresh herbs, citrus, Mediterranean fruits like figs or pomegranates. But that doesn’t mean you have to play it safe. “Don’t be afraid to get creative and experiment with combinations of Greek spirits and mixers or add a splash of Greek spirits to classic cocktail recipes to create something entirely new,” he says.

Lastly, as always, it’s all about balance, particularly balancing the flavors of the spirits with fresh ingredients like citrus juices, herbal elements, and classic cocktail modifiers such as vermouth or bitters. “Greek spirits often tend to have herbal or anise notes, so be mindful of the other ingredients you choose to ensure a harmonious blend of flavors,” he advises. Ahead, expert-approved recipes from this cocktail mecca of the Med. Opa!

Kástra Dirty Martini


No matter what the occasion (or no occasion) Mihalopoulos recommends this dirty martini. “I love this recipe because it utilizes our olives and brine from the same region in Greece. It gives the martini a unique synergistic taste,” he says.


  • 2.5oz of Kástra Elion Vodka
  • .5oz Kástra Dirty Brine
  • garnish with two Kástra olives


Pour liquid ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with olives.

Mediterranean Breeze

Hedges is partial to this Ouzo cocktail that’s “bright, fresh, and mentholated.” He says the Ouzo “provides a distinct anise flavor evoking the essence of the Mediterranean, transporting its drinker to a beachside destination, evoking sunshine, relaxation, and good vibrations.”


  • 2 oz Ouzo
  • .75 oz lime juice
  • .75 oz simple syrup
  • 8 mint leaves
  • club soda


Add lime juice, simple syrup, and mint leaves to a shaking tin and muddle. Then add the Ouzo and some ice. Shake and strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Top with club soda and garnish with a mint sprig.

METAXA 7 Stars Greek Spritz


Kalpaxidis says, “This cocktail is easy to make at home, and with the seasonal variations, you can enjoy a fantastic cocktail any time of the year.” The Greek elixir has a delicious base flavor, and the garnishes change to match the weather.


  • 1.4 oz METAXA 7 Stars
  • 1.4 oz Prosecco or other sparkling wine
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • 0.7 oz splash of tonic
  • Garnish: thyme sprig and lime


Pour METAXA into a red wine glass. Add bitters and ice into the glass and stir. Top up with Prosecco and tonic. Garnish with thyme sprig and lime.


Hedges’ next concoction is double the Greek fun, featuring the combination of Metaxa and Rakomelo. “[It] brings traditional Greek flavors to this cocktail offering complexity and balance along with richness and sophistication,” he says.


  • 2 oz Metaxa
  • .5 oa Rakomelo
  • .5 oz Carpano Antica
  • 3 dashes Angostura Bitters


Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a preserved cherry on a pick or an orange peel.


Courtesy of KLEOS

Panagopoulos is partial to this Greek low-cal version of an espresso martini. Even better, she says it’s so easy to make.


  • 2 oz KLEOS Mastiha Spirit
  • 2 oz cold brew coffee
  • cinnamon (fall/winter)
  • mint (spring/summer)


Pour KLEOS and cold brew into a mixing tin and stir. Sprinkle in cinnamon and stir additionally. Pour over ice into a rocks glass. In summer, slap a mint sprig instead of cinnamon as a garnish.