Social drinking is an intrinsic part of Greek culture. Savoring a cup during meal times and gatherings is a way to express joy and celebrate the moment.
Drinking your way around the country is a novel idea so make sure to include this list in your travel itinerary. We will have you toasting Υγεια! (yamas!) to your companions and drinking buddies in no time!
Whether you are going wholesome with coffees or teas, or fully enjoying beers, wines and spirits produced from local distilleries and vineyards, here are 18 popular Greek drinks and beverages you must try in Greece.
Alcoholic Greek beverages
Say hello to Greece’s national drink, the ouzo! This is a popular Greek spirit and aperitif, with its distinctive anise or aniseed flavor. The ouzo is initially a clear drink but turns cloudy or milky-like when mixed with water.
Ouzo is the perfect match for these yummy Greek tidbits or appetizers called mezedes, like cured meats and fishes or cold cuts.
With hundreds of distilleries in different parts of Greece, various recipes of ouzo using plain alcohol and herbs, plus its detailed techniques are passed from generation to generation and are protected like well-kept family secrets.
2. Tsipouro and Tsikoudia / Raki
After grapes are processed for winemaking, their pomace or residue is distilled further until it produces a clear and strong beverage, containing about 40% alcohol (or possibly even higher!).
The resulting drink is known as the tsipouro if from mainland Greece or the tsikoudia, also known as raki, if from Crete. These are often homemade, and production culminates in autumn after the harvesting of the grapes.
People might often get confused and use the names interchangeably, but here’s one important distinction: there are two types of tsipouro – one infused with anise and one without. Meanwhile, anise is never added to raki.
The North Aegean island of Chios made it into UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural History list because of their know-how in cultivating different products from the mastic tree.
The resin obtained from the mastic tree, also called the tears of Chios, has been developed into different products like gum, soap, cosmetics, sweets, and a liqueur named masticha (or sometimes called mastiha, mastika).
The crystal sap is added to alcohol and sugar, creating a delicious and uniquely Greek beverage that is best served cold at the end of a meal.
Tentoura is considered as a digestif or digestive liqueur and is savored after a meal. This famous Greek alcohol dates back to the 15th century in the city of Patras.
Tentoura is produced by extracting clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, citron and mandarin peels into alcohol. The alcohol is then filtered after some weeks, to which caramel syrup is added. The mixture is then diluted with water and then left to mature for about two months
The tentoura can be served at room temperature or served chilled, usually in crushed ice with a dollop of cream. It can also be added to coffee as added flavor, to which the beverage is called corretto.
Retsina is the renowned Greek wine native to the vineyards and wineries of Greece’s Attica region.
It is made from a white grape variety and is mixed usually with natural resin from pine trees.
Retsina is known for having a mild aroma, balanced sweetness and acidity that is just right, making it a great meal partner for oily food or seafood, as well as strong-flavored appetizers.
Assyrtiko is also from the Greek white grape variety. Originally from the island of Santorini, cultivating this has also reached other islands and regions in Greece.
This Greek wine has a multitude of aromas like citrus, apple, honey, raisin, and incense. It is a dry and full-bodied white wine and has high and crisp acidity.
This drink is said to complement seafood or anything salty.
Also native to Santorini, Vinsanto is a dessert wine that has a rich gold and amber color, sweet and packed with flavor and aromas.
To produce this drink, white grapes are sun-dried for about fourteen days. The grapes are then fermented and oak-aged for at least 2 years, or the longer the better!
This Greek alcohol is made from brandy, a combination of botanicals, aromatics and specific Muscat wines from the Samos island!
Four versions are available: three, five, seven, and twelve stars. The stars represent the number of years the blend has been aged.
The metaxa has a smooth yet intensely complex flavor and aroma. Depending on one’s preference, it can be served neat or on the rocks, or mixed into cocktails and long drinks.
9. Greek beer
A gastronomic experience in Greece will not be complete without having their famous Greek beer!
It is said that more than 70 beers options are locally made and produced! Different kinds of beers are also available, from IPA to stout, pils, weiss, ale, and of course, lager!
Local microbreweries have also made the move of growing their own crops to be used for their beer production!
The Greek beer’s variety, body and taste make it the “perfect accompaniment for your meal,” enhancing flavors from seafood to chicken, even charcuterie boards! But it is also a good drink of choice on a night out!
Did you know? The first manually operated brewery in Greece was set up way back in 1840!
The leaves of the citron tea on the island of Naxos are the main ingredient needed to produce the liqueur, Kitro. A wholesome ingredient, considering Kitro is considered the strongest and driest of all Greek alcohols, with up to 36% ABV!
There are three Kitro variations, which can be differentiated from its color: green, yellow, and the strongest, white!
11. Kumquat liqueur
When you visit the Greek island, Corfu, you should not forget to try their iconic Kumquat liqueur.
This golden-orange citrus fruit from the kumquat tree produces a sweet liqueur and is said to be elegant and aromatic, making it one of the most popular soft drinks in Greece, specifically in Corfu.
The kumquat liqueur can also be used in mixing cocktails and long drinks.
Non-alcoholic Greek beverages
12. Greek Coffee: Ellinikos Kafes
The Greek coffee is a strong, syrupy brew with a thick and creamy mouthfeel. It is often served with a cold glass of water.
With a ratio of 1:10 – coffee to water, unfiltered finely ground coffee beans are boiled in a small pot with a long handle named briki. As the coffee is heated, the grounds will settle at the bottom, and a foam (kaimaki) will form on top.
Having a cup is not just a part of the morning ritual for the Greeks. It is so steeped in their history that it has become a social activity and a way of life.
Their first coffee shop was recorded way back in 1475, during the Ottoman Empire. Despite all that happened – including technological advancements, even financial crises, their love for coffee never waned.
It was back in 1957 when a Nestlé employee accidentally invented this icy, frothy drink.
Dimitris Vakondios was at the Thessaloniki International Fair and wanted a cup of his regular Nescafé Classic coffee but there was no hot water. He then thought of mixing the coffee with cold water in a shaker, and the frappé was born!
It boomed and became one of the most popular drinks in Greece.
A frappe is a simple mixture of instant or soluble coffee, sugar, water or sometimes milk and ice. Depending on your sweet tooth, there are three levels of sweetness:
- glykós – 2 teaspoons of coffee + 4 teaspoons of sugar
- métrios – 2 teaspoons of coffee + 2 teaspoons of sugar
- Skétos – two teaspoons of coffee + no sugar
After frappé became one of the biggest trends in Greece, the 90s saw the birth of its rival!
It is said that it was in response to a market problem when espresso sales were not as successful during the hotter months. So they thought of having a double espresso shot mixed with ice, and boom came freddo!
Freddo comes in two usual variants: the freddo espresso and the freddo cappuccino, where regular cappuccino is mixed with ice and topped with some cold frothed milk.
But for coffee enthusiasts, the variations are endless! Add cream, chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon, or even liquor. It’s all up to your preference.
15. Greek Mountain Tea: Tsai Tou Vounou
The tsai tou vounou is one of the traditional Greek drinks. Hippocrates, the Greek philosopher and the father of modern medicine even vouched for its herbal and medicinal properties.
This tea is popular for its high antioxidant levels and is commonly used to reduce cough and cold symptoms. It also has anti-inflammatory, gastroprotective, anti-microbial properties and more!
It can be consumed by steeping the dried flowers and leaves in boiling water or by adding honey and other flavors like mint or chamomile. Others even add lemon for a vitamin C boost!
The mountain tea is from the Sideritis species, also known as ironwort. it grows wild at rocky places at high altitudes of about 3,000 feet above sea level.
This beverage is also called different names, depending on the country and mountain of origin. If grown in Greece, it’s called shepherd’s tea or Olympus tea, malotira if from Crete, pirin tea or mursalski tea if from Bulgaria or sharplaninski chaj if from Macedonia.
Ariani is a refreshing and savory yogurt drink. It has its roots in Turkey’s ayran and is very popular with Greeks of Turkish descent.
This non-alcoholic beverage is made of 3 ingredients: Greek yogurt, water, and salt. Sometimes, mint leaves are added for additional flavor. This combination churns up a mildly sour and salty drink, served with ice.
Aside from helping beat the heat, ariani is said to be beneficial, especially when restoring nutrients after a workout or when dealing with hangovers.
Soumada is a special delicacy produced in Crete.
Locally-grown almonds are processed and soaked in water then infused with sugar and simmered down to a syrup. This almond-based syrup is then diluted with ice water and served. To spice things up, others add liquor to the mix.
It is characterized by its milky or cloudy white color, along with its distinct aroma and sometimes bitter undertones from the almonds.
It was traditionally served during weddings, engagements, and other special occasions.
18. Vyssináda (βυσσινάδα)
Simply known or romanized as visinada, this refreshing drink is directly translated as sour cherry juice.
Mashed sour cherries, sans the stem and its stones, are cooked with sugar to produce syrup. The syrup is then mixed with cold water and ice and you’ve got this tangy and sweet drink.
There are also pre-made cherry syrup options if you don’t have the time (or the energy) to make it from scratch.
The word symposium literally refers to “drinking together” during ancient Greece.
Legally, one must be at least 18 years old to purchase and consume alcoholic drinks in Greece. But it is said that the drinking age in Greece is not strictly enforced.
But there is one faux pas tourists must look out for: While drinking and consuming alcoholic drinks in a social setting is normal, Greeks frown upon excessive drinking along with rowdy, drunk behavior. So sip slow and steady and enjoy the moment, without the hangover!
Aside from these 18 popular Greek drinks and beverages you must try in Greece, do also check out this list of the most delicious Greek desserts to add to your Greek gastronomic experience.