Tears of Chios Cocktail

January 11, 2012

We love our bubbly, but when recently celebrating New Year’s Eve in Athens, our drink of choice was the Tears of Chios Cocktail served in the Roof Garden Bar atop the historic Hotel Grande Bretagne on Syntagma Square.

Day or night the view from the Hotel Grande Bretagne Garden Bar intoxicates

Hotel Grande Bretagne Roof Garden Bar with Acropolis view

At first sip we knew we were onto something special, but we were puzzled….

The cocktail menu itemized ingredients, but what accounted for that that elusive taste?

Luxury cocktail menu Hotel Grande Bretagne Athens

Was it the Skinos mastiha?

Tears of Chios Cocktail Hotel Grande Bretagne Athens

The Tears of Chios cocktail we sipped in Athens also featured muddled mint and grapes

Mastiha

In Greek,¬†mastiha¬†(pronounced MAHS-teeh-hah) is an aromatic resin harvested from a shrub in the pistachio family¬†that grows on the island of¬†Chios¬†in the northeast Aegean. When the bark of this shrub is slashed, globules of sap form the mastic ‘tears’ used by the makers of Skinos¬†mastiha.¬†In her encyclopedic journey of a book¬†The Glorious Foods of Greece,¬†Diane Kochilas¬†writes that “in a way, the trees have to ‘cry’ for mastic to be harvested.”

Mastic "tears" and shrub

Mastic 'tears' and shrub

Kochilas goes on to explain that in cooking, “the rock-hard, somewhat sticky crystals have to be pounded to a fine dust, usually with a bit of sugar, to keep them from sticking to the mortar and pestle or spice grinder.”

Anthropologist-author-cook Susanna Hoffmann also waxes poetic (without being “sappy”) on the topic of mastic resin. In¬†The Olive and the Caper: Adventures in Greek Cooking, she writes: “I place small open jars of the sap in my kitchen to scent the atmosphere…. Mastic tastes like lush piney vanilla. It smells like the perfume Shalimar, but with a conifer tinge. It is irresistible.”

Which brings us back to our¬†cocktail, because when mastiha is mixed into a refreshing beverage, “irresistable” says it all.

Made in Chios, available in U.S.

When we returned to Boston we placed¬†Skinos Mastiha¬†at the top of our shopping list because we knew that even without an Acropolis view Tears of Chios would taste pretty great. But the key ingredient wasn’t available! At least not at first try, when we stopped by our neighborhood store.

Greek tragedy? Not at all, thanks to the hugely helpful Jeff Dolin, a buyer at¬†Blanchard’s Liquors, in Allston.¬†On our behalf Jeff initiated some online research, placed a special order, stocked his shelves, and…voila!

Variation on Tears of Chios cocktail with muddled pomegranate seeds

A variation substitutes muddled pomegranate seeds for grapes

Tears of Chios Cocktail Recipe

2 ounces Skinos mastiha
2 ounces vodka
1 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 ounce agave (diluted 50/50 with water)
muddled grapes or pomegranate seeds and mint

  1. Dilute agave syrup by adding an equal part of boiled water. Stir.
  2. Muddle grapes or pomegranate seeds and mint leaves in a cocktail shaker.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and ice and shake.
  4. Serve on the rocks in a double Old Fashioned rocks glass.
  5. Garnish with bamboo skewer through a grape and mint leave, or–if you’re making the pomegranate variation–just the mint

Yield: Serves 2
Anita Baglaneas, Owner-Chef of Jules Catering, adapted this recipe from a cocktail menu at the Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens, Greece

Not just for cocktails

In case you were wondering… The Greek origin of the word ‘masticate’¬†derives from¬†mastichan¬†(to gnash the teeth), which is related to¬†masasthai¬†(to chew). If you’re looking for something¬†tangible¬†to chew on and you happen to find yourself in Manhattan, head down to the Lower East Side and stop in the¬†mastihashop New York, where you can¬†purchase mastic chewing gum and other¬†mastiha¬†products from the island of Chios. And if you’re inclined to delve further, two books that features¬†mastiha¬†recipes are¬†Mastiha Cuisine Cookbook¬†and¬†The Greek Vegetarian.

Photo Credits:
Mastic ‘tears’ and shrub: Wikimedia Commons
All other photos: Liz Muir 


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