Drinking Greek – A guide to drinking in Greece
In Greece, drinking is a ritual. Fun ritual full of color, taste and life but ritual nonetheless- and you shouldn’t miss out! Missing out on drinking Greek in Greece is like going to the beach and never dipping in- a major miss you don’t want.
Drinking for Greeks and greek culture in general is meant as a social connector, a way to bond with your friends, family and neighbors and create good, merry memories that will help you through the hardships of everyday life.
Like the nectar of the Gods, drinking is central as a means, but peripheral as an end: you are expected to drink to make merry and to participate in the partying, the chatting, the socializing. That is more important than the alcohol itself.
Drinking in Greece is never done alone, and it’s never without company- both in terms of friends AND in terms of food: drinking without eating something to ‘ground the booze’ is considered a sad, sad affair that is more like an illness than something awesome, as drinking should be.
If you do it right, drinking Greek will give you all the advantages and none of the drawbacks: you’ll drink a lot, you won’t get drunk, and you’ll remember every moment of your merriment, partying and bonding with friends, old and new.
So what DO you get to drink in Greece, and what do you accompany it with, since you shouldn’t ever drink it on its own?
There’s a ton of alcohol to choose from in Greece: From the vast, multiply awarded array of Greek microbrewery, acclaimed beers to excellent varieties of red, rose and white wine to the stiffer drinks you get shots of like the ubiquitous ouzo, the powerful tsipouro and the traditional tough but scented raki.
Currently in Greece a boom of the beer and alcohol industry is being experienced, so make sure to try several greek beer labels, from the very famous, like Fix and Vergina to the less known but very acclaimed, like Nissos, Bios5, Rose and Volkan. Each boast their own unique taste and should not be missed.
In the same manner, you should also make it a point to try Greek wines, accompanied by Greek cheeses or, if you’re lucky and are a guest at a Greek household, greek wine tidbits. Some famous categories of Greek wine that have been multiply awarded are Moshofilero, Agiorgeitiko, Xinomavro, Semeli, and of course the traditional and ever present and loved pine-sap Retsina.
Ouzo, being the most famous alcoholic drink from Greece, also has several types and categories that you should sample, including special fragrances like Mastiha Ouzo. Different labels offer different experiences so don’t pass up trying them. The most popular among Greeks are Barbayiannis, Plomari and Mini.
Besides ouzo, in the field of clear drinks with a strong kick, you must taste tsipouro and raki, which are indigenous to northern Greece and Crete- though with the passage of time, each area in Greece has its own type of tsipouro or raki (also known as tsikoudia). While ouzo is anise based, tsipouro and raki are pomace based so they taste vastly different and vary depending on the mix from which they were distilled from.
What’s the etiquette?
Now you know what to drink, how DO you drink it to be able to claim you’re drinking Greek?
The ritual is simple but targeted to making you feel good with your friends, and part of a positive whole:
- everyone fills their glasses first before any drinking begins. This is a joint operation.
- then we all toast (usually by yelling “ya mas!” and raising our glass) and take the first sip.
- we eat while we drink- usually from plates in the middle from where everyone takes tidbits.
- we drink all of what is in our glass before refilling it (that’s for good luck).
And that’s it! Now you’re ready, equipped to have a great time, and experience the joy of being tablemates with Greeks, or reviving it among you and truly becoming part of the Greek experience.
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