While on your Corfu holiday,
do not miss out, try some of the local drinks: Metaxa brandy, Ouzo, ice cold
coffee, local wines and beers.
The end to any meal in a Greek Taverna is
not complete without a Greek Brandy! Occasionally, I am disappointed to hear
a request along the following lines: "It's time for an after dinner
digestive. Do you have any proper brandies - not a Greek one?"
Let me explain why I rate Metaxa so highly:
Metaxa is distinguished as the most famous
Greek spirit worldwide. It is misled as an actual brandy but in actual fact
is something more. Thus, when we are talking about Metaxa we refer to this
unique spirit and not to a brandy product. It was invented by a silk trader
named Spyros Metaxas in 1888. He was from the Attica region - a province of
Athens. The grapes Savatiano, Sultanina and Black Corinth are locally grown
and form the basis of this spirit which is twice distilled and blended with
aged Muscat wine from Samos, then blended with a secret botanical mix and
aged in hand made oak casks. When served in a large brandy glass and warmed
by the palm of your hand, the perfumed aroma is a truly intoxicating
Recently, the product has earned world
recognition for its quality, color and taste. Expressions of
admiration and adjectives like "The Elixir of Life", "The Nectar of the
Gods", "The Blessed Spirit" accompanied Metaxa from its birth, till this
Metaxa is generally available in the
versions: Three Star, Five Star, Seven Star and Twelve Star. Each star
represents a year that it has been aged in oak barrels for. Hence the Metaxa
5 star is at least 5 years old. Occasionally, you will find a Metaxa
'Private Reserve' which is at least 20 years old. There is no difference in
terms of quality and production process between the different Metaxa stars,
as in every family, age is the only uncommon characteristic. It is worth
pointing out that other Metaxa products considered as 'collector items' are
occasionally available, such as the 'Metaxa Grand Olympian Reserve', and 'Metaxa
Each Taverna usually has its own wine
served by the kilo (equal to a litre) - often served in metal tin jugs. The
taste and standard varies tremendously. Most often than not, it will be
served in a metal carafe - just enjoy!
For beer, think larger! Mythos, Amstel and Hieniken are the locally
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Ouzo is a social drink - not to be drunk on
its own - rather with friends, and preferably with a small Meze.
An Ouzo Meze usually consists of a small pate with a few olives, feta
cheese, local sausage and if you are lucky some grilled Octopus. Picking at
these nibbles, helps keep the effects of the alcohol from overwhelming you
and enables you to sit, drink and talk for hours in a profoundly calm state
of mind where all is beautiful and life is fine. This not just a drink, but
a part of Greek life!
If you do not like the taste of
then ouzo is not for you. Fennel extract is the main added ingredient. Ouzo is drunk with ice and water. When you
add water, the ouzo turns a milky white. How much to pour in is a matter of
taste, so when Ouzo is served, the water is always served separate, leaving
the drinker to mix the ratio to their taste.
Occasionally, you will meet a taverna or
kafenion owner who makes their own ouzo. Watch out. Though they call it
ouzo, it is really 'raki' or 'tsipuro' and does not have that liquorice
flavor one associates with ouzo. It is made in homemade stills and goes down
smooth but it's effects are rapid and powerful. One glass won't hurt, but
two might kill you!
Strangely, it is a drink that does not travel and your
desire for ouzo will soon end the moment you step on the plane home!
If you normally drink an espresso after a meal, then you must
try Greek coffee. It is quite strong and served in a small cup. Remember,
when you order it you need to indicate how much sugar should be used when
making it: Sketo - none; Metrio - one sugar; Glyko - two sugars. Also, do
not make the 'tourist' mistake of drinking the sludge at the bottom!
Finally, ordering one Sketos, one Metrio and one Glyko at the same time for
your table will really upset your waiter as each needs to be made
separately! To learn how to make Greek Coffee:
Greek Coffee - how to
Ice cold frothy coffee -
just try one on a warm summer morning. The
best hangover cure yet!