Greece is known around the world for its rich history, beautiful landscapes, and delicious cuisine. However, one aspect of Greek culture that is often overlooked is its drinking culture. Drinking is deeply ingrained in Greek social life, and it plays an important role in many aspects of Greek society.
Let us introduce you to the Greek drinking culture while you enjoy an evening full of delectable Greek wines, spirits and bites in our wine tasting & nightlife tour.
Drinking in Greece: A communal activity of the Greeks
First and foremost, drinking in Greece is a communal activity. Greeks rarely drink alone, and instead prefer to share drinks with friends and family. It is common for Greeks to gather at tavernas or cafes to enjoy drinks together, and these social gatherings often last for hours. In fact, it is not unusual for Greeks to spend entire afternoons or evenings drinking and socialising. This is why we say that you don’t just find a table in Greece, but instead “rent” it!
Greek spirits and meze for the win
Greece is home to a variety of traditional spirits and drinks, many of which are an integral part of Greek culture and social life. These drinks range from anise-flavored spirits to fruit-based liqueurs, and are often enjoyed alongside traditional Greek cuisine.
One of the most well-known Greek spirits is ouzo, a clear liquor that is flavored with anise. When drinking in Greece ouzo is typically served with small plates of food known as mezedes, and is meant to be sipped slowly and enjoyed over the course of a meal or social gathering. In addition to its anise flavor, ouzo also has a distinct licorice aroma and a high alcohol content, typically around 40% ABV.
Another popular Greek spirit is tsipouro, which is similar to ouzo but is made with grapes instead of anise. Tsipouro is typically served as an aperitif or digestif, and is often accompanied by small plates of food such as olives, cheese, or cured meats. Tsipouro can be found in both clear and aged varieties, with the aged version often having a smoother and more complex flavor.
Raki is another traditional Greek spirit, which is similar to tsipouro but is typically made with the remains of the grape pressings after wine production. Raki is typically enjoyed in the company of others, and is often served alongside mezedes or other small plates of food. Rakomelo also is a traditional Greek spirit made by blending raki with honey and spices, such as cinnamon and cloves. It is often served warm and is a popular drink for winter months if you’re going drinking in Greece.
In addition to traditional spirits and wine, Greece is also known for its fruit-based liqueurs. These liqueurs are typically made with a variety of fruits and herbs, and are often served as after-dinner drinks or digestifs. Some popular fruit-based liqueurs in Greece include cherry, apricot, and quince liqueurs.
These are just a few examples of the many Greek distillates that are enjoyed in Greece. Greek distillates are an important part of Greece’s cultural heritage and are a must-try for anyone visiting Greece.
Do you want to know more about Greek spirits? Here’s your guide of Greek spirits and distillates explained.
Greek cocktails explained
Did you know about the ancient Greek cocktail? Actually used as a healing potion in The Iliad & The Odyssey, and a drink to commune with the Gods in secret Greek Mysteries, “Kykeon” has a fascinating history.
Greek cocktails are a blend of traditional Greek spirits and ingredients, combined with modern mixology techniques and flavors. Here are some popular Greek cocktails that you might want to try when going drinking in Greece:
Mastiha Sour – Mastiha is a traditional Greek liqueur made from the resin of the Mastiha tree. To make a Mastiha Sour, mix Mastiha liqueur, lemon juice, sugar syrup, and egg white in a shaker. Shake well, strain into a glass, and garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme.
Metaxa Lemonade – Metaxa is a Greek brandy that is often used as a base for cocktails. To make a Metaxa Lemonade, mix Metaxa, lemon juice, sugar syrup, and soda water in a tall glass filled with ice. Stir well and garnish with a slice of lemon.
Watermelon Ouzo Cooler – Ouzo is a traditional Greek anise-flavored spirit that is often served with meze plates. To make a Watermelon Ouzo Cooler, muddle fresh watermelon in a shaker, then add ouzo, lime juice, and sugar syrup. Shake well, strain into a glass filled with ice, and top with soda water. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.
Greek Island Iced Tea – This cocktail is a Greek twist on the classic Long Island Iced Tea. To make a Greek Island Iced Tea, mix equal parts of ouzo, Metaxa, tequila, gin, and lemon juice in a shaker. Shake well, strain into a glass filled with ice, and top with cola. Garnish with a slice of lemon.
Tsipouro Lemonade – Tsipouro is a traditional Greek grape-based spirit that is often served as an aperitif, as mentioned above. To make a Tsipouro Lemonade, mix tsipouro, lemon juice, sugar syrup, and soda water in a tall glass filled with ice. Stir well and garnish with a slice of lemon and a sprig of fresh rosemary.
These are just a few examples of the many Greek cocktails that you can enjoy. Greek bartenders are known for their creativity and use of local ingredients, so don’t be afraid to try something new and exciting on your next trip when you decide to go drinking in Greece!
Are you in Athens? We got you covered! No more wondering where to find the best Greek cocktails with Acropolis views. Yamas! (=Cheers)
Wine culture in Greece
Wine is also a significant part of drinking in Greece. There is a long history of winemaking and many varieties of Greek wine are popular both in Greece and around the world. In fact, some of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world are located in Greece, and Greek wine has been produced for thousands of years. A wine tasting in Athens is the ideal way to get to know the fascinating world of Greek wine upon your visit.
In addition to socialising, drinking in Greece also plays a role in religious and cultural celebrations. For example, during the Greek Orthodox Easter holiday, it is customary to drink red wine and eat traditional Easter foods such as lamb and “tsoureki”, a sweet bread made with orange zest and spices. Similarly, during the Greek Orthodox wedding ceremony, it is traditional for the bride and groom to share a glass of wine as a symbol of their union.
Here are some things you should know about Greek wine:
Regions – Greece has many different wine regions, each with their own unique terroir and grape varieties. Some of the most well-known wine regions in Greece include Santorini, Nemea, and Naoussa.
Grape Varieties – Greece is home to many indigenous grape varieties, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. Some of the most popular Greek grape varieties include Assyrtiko, Agiorgitiko, Xinomavro, and Moschofilero.
Winemaking Techniques – Greek winemakers have a long tradition of using natural winemaking techniques, such as fermenting wine in clay amphorae or aging wine in oak barrels. Many Greek winemakers also use organic and biodynamic farming practices.
Styles of Wine – Greek wine comes in many different styles, including dry whites, reds, rosés, and sweet dessert wines. Some of the most well-known Greek wines include Santorini Assyrtiko, Nemea Agiorgitiko, and Naoussa Xinomavro.
Food Pairings – Drinking in Greece rarely goes without food! Greek wine is often enjoyed alongside traditional Greek cuisine, which features fresh ingredients and bold flavours. Some popular food pairings for Greek wine include grilled meats, feta cheese, and fresh seafood.
Overall, Greek wine is a unique and exciting category of wine that is worth exploring. With its rich history, unique grape varieties, and natural winemaking techniques, Greek wine offers a taste of Greece’s rich cultural heritage and terroir.
Are you a wine lover going drinking in Greece? Read our guide through Greek wine for more.
Athens is a bustling city with a vibrant nightlife scene that offers something for everyone. From rooftop bars with stunning views of the Acropolis to underground clubs playing the latest electronic music, Athens has it all.
Here are some of the best places to experience Athens’ nightlife:
Psirri – Psirri is a neighborhood in Athens that is known for its lively bars and clubs. Here you will find a mix of locals and tourists enjoying cocktails, craft beers, and live music. Some popular spots in Psirri include Six Dogs, which features an outdoor courtyard and a rooftop bar, and A for Athens, which has a rooftop bar with stunning views of the Acropolis.
Gazi – Gazi is another neighbourhood that is popular for its nightlife. This former gasworks district has been transformed into a trendy entertainment district with numerous bars, clubs, and restaurants. Some popular spots in Gazi include Liar man with a cozy and trendy atmosphere and delicious cocktails and Gazarte, a venue that features live music and events.
Kolonaki – Kolonaki is a more upscale neighbourhood that is known for its chic bars and restaurants. Here you will find a mix of rooftop bars, jazz clubs, and cocktail bars. Some popular spots in Kolonaki include Jazz in Jazz, the temple of jazz and whiskey lovers in Athens and Rock ‘n’ Roll, ideal if you’re a fan of classic rock ‘n’ roll tunes and unique DJ sets.
Monastiraki – Monastiraki is a historic neighborhood that is home to a bustling nightlife scene. Here you will find a mix of rooftop bars, tavernas, and clubs. Some popular spots in Monastiraki include Baba Au Rum, a bar that is known for its extensive rum selection and creative cocktails (among the best bars of the world!) , and Couleur Locale, a rooftop bar that features stunning views of the city.
photo credit: leonidas toumpanos
Overall, Athens’ nightlife scene is diverse and exciting, with something to suit every taste and budget. Whether you prefer a casual night out at a local taverna or a sophisticated wine tasting in Athens, here you can find it all.
Did you enjoy our article about Greek drinking culture and wine tasting in Athens? Read also our blog on Greek food culture to get the full picture with 10 top facts!