NEW YORK – Greek spirits, including Metaxa and Mastiha, are the stars of a new cocktail trend set by high end Greek restaurants across the United States, VinePair reported on November 30.
In San Francisco, Estiatorio Ornos a Michael Mina Restaurant offers a cocktail featuring Mastiha, the liqueur from Chios, “mixed with limoncello sorbet and Prosecco,” VinePair reported, adding that Mastiha is also an ingredient in the Genepy Sour cocktail along with gin and génépi, an herbaceous liqueur from the Alps, at Andros Taverna in Chicago’s Logan Square.
Limani in New York “features Metaxa, a brandy-based Greek heritage spirit, in its white sangria,” VinePair reported, noting that “both spirits are deeply rooted in Greek tradition.”
Mastiha is, of course, produced from mastic trees growing only on the island of Chios, and “crystals of mastic resin are distilled and sugar is added, contributing to the liqueur’s herbal, digestif-like flavor profile,” VinePair reported, adding that Metaxa “is manufactured all over Greece in an elaborate process, in the center of which are Muscat wines from the island of Samos. It’s produced by the eponymous brand, established in 1888. Made available in the U.S. some time ago, the two have been enjoyed for decades by knowing insiders, primarily on the rocks.”
Mastiha “is sweet and herbaceous with notes of pine,” while “amber-colored Metaxa, rumored to be based on an ancient secret recipe, is citrusy and light,” VinePair reported, noting that “its aromatic notes vary from pine to citrus to cedar, depending on the age of the spirit, which is indicated by the number of stars on each bottle” and “both are, apparently, newcomers to the world of cocktails.”
“I do believe that a majority of these spirits are quite new in the bar scene,” Anthony Attanasio, head bartender at Estiatorio Ornos, told VinePair. “While Metaxa and ouzo have been carried by bars for years, it is quite rare to see them utilized in cocktails.”
“When Attanasio was planning the cocktail list for Ornos, he realized that mastiha is, in fact, ‘a hidden gem’ — an ingredient that can truly surprise a savvy customer with its complex softwood-like aroma and flavor,” VinePair reported.
“At Andros, mastiha is favored for its versatility,” VinePair reported.
“If you use the right ratios, mastiha works well with most spirits; I’ve tried it with tequila, gin, and whiskey,” Andros bar manager Diana Meza told VinePair. “It sounds like it could be overwhelming, but the brightness of mastiha makes it a beautiful, botanic, and refreshing cocktail.”
“Metaxa, on the other hand, puts a Greek spin on cocktails that are typically concocted with brandy,” VinePair reported.
“The flavor of Metaxa is unique and very pleasant,” George Saites, Limani’s beverage director, told VinePair. “It has a sweetness that comes from the Muscat wines and citrus notes; maybe a touch of coriander. Rumor has it, rose petals are part of the botanicals, too.”
During the winter months, Metaxa is featured in seasonal drinks, VinePair reported. “It adds a fantastic spice quality, which bodes well with many amaros and cordials,” Attanasio told VinePair.
“Mastiha is still a bit of an unknown ingredient and can be intimidating for some mixologists, but I believe people find it intriguing and are excited to learn how it lends itself to great cocktails,” Meza told VinePair.