I spent some time in Greece in college, and particularly as someone who hadn't turned 21 yet, being able to drink amid a culture so steeped in great food and drink history was probably one of the best introductions to true adulthood one could ask for.
That, and drinking my first margarita overlooking red pebble beaches and a volcano at a place called Señor Zorba, a Mexican restaurant smack dab in the middle of the gorgeous island of Santorini, was pretty fucking cool.
Greek booze is highly underrated – it's not all cheap ouzo and jug wine, people. I'll take a crisp, ice-cold Assyriatiko over most other white wines any day of the week, and my love affair with dessert wine started with Mavrodaphne, a sweet, almost black red wine that, unlike margaritas and Americanized Mexican food, actually originates from Santorini.
Alcoholic beverages from Greece aren't for everyone – you often find locals sipping on fiery hooch similar to grappa, white wine finished in bags made from the stomach lining of sheep, and liqueur made from the resin of ancient pine trees covering much of the island of Chios.
In that last example, the resin, called μαστίχα (mastic, in English), is loosely categorized as a spice, although given its sticky nature, it can also be chewed like gum, which folks have done for thousands of years in the pursuit of better oral health and relief from stomach ulcers. It is also a staple of Greek baking and can be made into the most interesting, delicious liqueur.
The issue I kept encountering was it has such a strong, unique flavor that I was struggling to find a base spirit I could combine it with. Mixing it with bourbon tasted like cough syrup. Combining with rum or tequila just tasted... wrong. Even with an herby gin or tasteless vodka, the mastiha seemed to bring out the worst possible flavors of anything I added it to.
Something I do when i want to pick apart the flavor of something is to add it to soda water – diluting it makes it easier to taste it without being overwhelming. I took a sip, and damn, if it wasn't delicious with just soda water. Since i'm not such a basic bitch, I imagined other flavors I could add... lemon juice was delicious, unsurprisingly, and something about the combination tasted sterile, in a way. Like a medicinal edge that begged for a fresh, green herb.
Parsley, much to my surprise, hit the bullseye.
Here's the result. Still simple, but super delicious.
2 oz. Mastiha liqueur
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
15 leaves flat leaf parsley
1/2 T sugar
thin lemon wedge to garnish
Combine lemon juice, sugar, and parsley in a shaker and muddle. Add ice and mastiha and shake to chill. Pour through a strainer into an ice-filled highball glass, top with soda, garnish with a lemon wedge, and serve.
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