Greek Alcoholic Drinks

Greek alcoholic drinks include distinctly Greek drinks such as ouzo, Metaxa, retsina, raki, tsikoudia and tsipouro, but also Greek wines and Greek beers. 

Retsina bottles.

Greek Alcoholic Drinks

Ouzo

Ouzo is a very popular aperitif. It's an aniseed-based drink a little like pastis, raki, or arak. It is served neat in a tall glass with an accompanying glass of water. Some people prefer their ouzo neat and will sip at the water, but the most common way to drink it is to pour some water into the ouzo, till you get the taste that you prefer. Adding water turns the ouzo milky. You can drink it on its own as a pre-dinner drink, or enjoy it with your meze starters. See more information on our special Greek Ouzo page.

Bottle and glasses of ouzo, the Greek alcoholic aperitif.Yammas!

Ouzo is typically about 37-40% ABV so is as strong as other spirits like vodka and gin, but it's got a very more-ish taste and is very refreshing in a hot climate so it's easy to overdo it. The best ouzo is said to come from the island of Lesbos.

Beer

Bottles of craft beer from CreteBottles from a Craft Brewery on Crete

Beer is very popular in Greece and many Greeks drink beer with meals rather than wine. Two of the main Greek brands to try are Fix and Mythos, and if you like light beers brands like Amstel and Heineken are also widely available. For a little variety there are also now an increasing number of craft breweries around the country, so ask if the bar or restaurant has any local beers they can recommend.

When we were on Crete, we did a tour and tasting at the Brink's Brewery, just outside Rethymnon. We had some Brink's beers at the Goules Taverna one night, and we loved them. Our enterprising tour guide Isi, from Go Crete, surprised us by arranging a tour of this small craft brewery. Here's a YouTube slideshow of behind the scenes at Brink's.

Greek Wine

Wine tasting on SamosWine Tasting on Samos

Greek wine has improved by leaps and bounds over the years, helped by increased demand from visitors and also young Greek winemakers travelling around the world and bringing new skills and techniques home with them. Long gone are the days when your only choices were Retsina and Domestica (red or white and nicknamed Domestos). 

Wine Tasting at the Stilianou Winery on CreteWine Tasting at the Stilianou Winery on Crete

House wines can vary in quality, but in some tavernas it really will be house wine, made by the owner in the family's own vineyards. In smarter places the wine lists will naturally be more sophisticated. Familiar grape varieties like cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay do grow in Greece but the country also has a wide range of indigenous grape varieties with unusual names like agiorgitiko and roditis. Be adventurous, and don't be afraid to ask what a particular wine is like, if you don't know the grape variety.

Here's a brief chat with one Cretan winemaker, Ioannis Stilianou, from our YouTube channel, where you'll find other videos about Greek food and drink.

Retsina

Bottle and Glass of Retsina in GreeceRetsina

Retsina is a peculiarly Greek white (or occasionally rosé) wine which has a slight resiny flavour. Some people love it, some people never get a taste for it, but you should certainly try it to find out which camp you're in. The resin taste is said to have begun some 2,000 years ago when wine was stored in clay amphora, which were sealed at the top with Aleppo resin. This acted as a very effective seal, good at keeping wine fresh, but it did imbue the wine with a slight resin flavour. 

The Greeks developed a liking for this distinctive wine. Even when it became possible to store wine in wooden barrels (which needed no resin stop and gave wines a different taste), the Greeks still wanted their retsina and the flavour was added in different ways. Retsina has a reputation as a 'rough' wine, not very sophisticated, but today's winemakers have reinvented retsina and there are some remarkably subtle retsinas available. The name 'Retsina' is acknowledged by the European Union as a PDO (Protected Domain of Origin).

We like retsina so much we've now written a whole retsina page.

Metaxa

Bottles of Metaxa

Metaxa is a common after-dinner Greek alcoholic drink, which people refer to as Greek brandy, though this isn't strictly the case. It's a good way to convey what kind of a drink it is. It was originally referred to as Greek cognac, until cognac-makers came up with a definition of cognac, so Metaxa (which is the family name of the original maker) described itself instead as a brandy, which wasn't then strictly defined. Later, though, the rules for calling yourself brandy were laid down, and Metaxa didn't meet the requirements so it became... just Metaxa.

In the Metaxa Distillery in AthensIn the Metaxa Distillery in Athens

In fact in international competitions Metaxa is in a class of its own as it doesn't fit into any official categories. It's a dark spirit that's distilled at the Metaxa Distillery in Athens, then blended with wine from Samos grapes, with added herbs and other secret ingredients. One known ingredient is rose petals, as someone once observed them being delivered to the distillery, so that little secret was out! It isn't hard to tell, though, as Metaxa does have a fresh and floral taste as part of its overall complex flavour. Think of it as a brandy/liqueur/digestif kind of drink that is distinctly Greek, and do try a glass after dinner. You can read more on our page, What Is Metaxa?

Metaxa Sign

It's common to leave a restaurant/taverna after a meal and move on to a bar or café for a Metaxa (or two) and maybe a dessert or some fresh fruit. Metaxa comes at different prices and, naturally, different qualities. The most common are 5-star, 7-star, and 12-star, with a few special (and expensive) limited editions. The more stars, the better, is a good rule-of-thumb, although even 5-star Metaxa is a delicious and smooth drink. Try a Metaxa cocktail, too.

Raki or Tsikoudia 

Tsikoudia Bottles on CreteSuperior Tsikoudia from the Manousakis Winery on Crete

Raki or tsikoudia is one of the strongest Greek alcoholic drinks. It's the after-dinner drink of choice on Crete, where it originated. It's a spirit distilled from the bits of the grape that are left over from the wine-making process. Waste not, want not. It's so common that many tavernas and restaurants give customers a complimentary glass at the end of a meal. Quality and strength varies enormously and it can be anything from a standard 40% ABV (like ouzo) to an eye-watering 65%. Our advice is knock it back and hope for the best! See our separate page asking What is Greek Raki?

Tsipouro

Bottles of the Greek alcoholic drink tsipouroTsipouro

Tsipouro is a similar drink to raki that is made widely on the Greek mainland, the main difference being that it rarely exceeds 40-45% ABV in strength, and doesn't get up to the high-octane alcohol content that it can do on Crete. 

Rakomelo 

Rakomelo is a Greek alcoholic drink made in several places in the country but notably on Crete, which is where we met a rakomelo-maker.

Our Pick of the Guides to Greece

Rough-Guide-Greece-2022.png

Other food and drink pages

  • Greece Travel Secrets tells the history of the classic Greek dish tzatziki, with a recipe for making your own yogurt and cucumber dip.

    History of Tzatziki and a Recipe

    Greece Travel Secrets tells the history of the classic Greek dish tzatziki, with a recipe for making your own yogurt and cucumber dip.

  • Antonis Maroudas is a Zakynthos winemaker who lives on the 'wine road' and is one of the people who make Zakynthos.

    Zakynthos Winemaker

    Antonis Maroudas is a Zakynthos winemaker who lives on the 'wine road' and is one of the people who make Zakynthos.

  • Corfu’s special cuisine includes dishes like sofrito and pastitsade and the chance to try ginger beer and kumquats.

    Corfu’s Special Cuisine

    Corfu’s special cuisine includes dishes like sofrito and pastitsade and the chance to try ginger beer and kumquats.

  • Corfu olives are an important part of this Greek island's economy, with an estimated 3-4 million trees producing olive oil of exceptional quality.

    Corfu Olives

    Corfu olives are an important part of this Greek island's economy, with an estimated 3-4 million trees producing olive oil of exceptional quality.

  •  Information for travelers on Corfu Food and Drink including restaurants and tavernas, Corfiot specialties, desserts, wine and other Greek drinks like ouzo.

    Corfu Food and Drink

    Information for travelers on Corfu Food and Drink including restaurants and tavernas, Corfiot specialties, desserts, wine and other Greek drinks like ouzo.

  • The First Corfu Beer Festival took place in Arillas in North West Corfu and celebrated the beer of Bavaria and of Corfu, in the Ionian islands of Greece.

    Corfu Beer Festival

    The First Corfu Beer Festival took place in Arillas in North West Corfu and celebrated the beer of Bavaria and of Corfu, in the Ionian islands of Greece.

  • The Greece Travel Secrets guide to tipping in Greece from two Greece travel experts, including when to tip, what to tip and when not to tip.

    Tipping in Greece

    The Greece Travel Secrets guide to tipping in Greece from two Greece travel experts, including when to tip, what to tip and when not to tip.

  • What is Metaxa? Metaxa is an amber Greek spirit combining brandy made by distilling wine, sweet wine from Samos and a secret recipe of Mediterranean botanicals.

    What Is Metaxa?

    What is Metaxa? Metaxa is an amber Greek spirit combining brandy made by distilling wine, sweet wine from Samos and a secret recipe of Mediterranean botanicals.

  • Raki is an alcoholic drink made with distilled grapes and anise, and popular in Greece and other Mediterranean countries, including Greece’s neighbour Turkey.

    What Is Greek Raki?

    Raki is an alcoholic drink made with distilled grapes and anise, and popular in Greece and other Mediterranean countries, including Greece’s neighbour Turkey.

  • What is a Greek Salad – a Greek Salad is made up of tomatoes, cucumber, onions, green pepper, olives, and feta cheese.

    What Is a Greek Salad

    What is a Greek Salad – a Greek Salad is made up of tomatoes, cucumber, onions, green pepper, olives, and feta cheese.

  • Moussaka: A Culinary Journey through Greek History, and a Recipe

    Greece Travel Secrets reveals the history of the classic Greek dish, moussaka, as well as providing a recipe for you to make your own.

  • Greek retsina is a dry white wine made and drunk all over Greece with a distinctive pine and resin flavour that people usually either love or hate.

    Greek Retsina

    Greek retsina is a dry white wine made and drunk all over Greece with a distinctive pine and resin flavour that people usually either love or hate.

  • Greek ouzo is an aniseed-based aperitif made all over the country but especially on Lesbos, tasting like a Greek pastis or arak and usually drunk with water.

    Greek Ouzo

    Greek ouzo is an aniseed-based aperitif made all over the country but especially on Lesbos, tasting like a Greek pastis or arak and usually drunk with water.

  • The Greece Travel Secrets guide to Greek grape varieties to help you know which wines to choose when dining in restaurants or buying wine in Greece.

    Greek Grape Varieties

    The Greece Travel Secrets guide to Greek grape varieties to help you know which wines to choose when dining in restaurants or buying wine in Greece.

  • Greek food and drink is a highlight of any visit and Greece Travel Secrets brings you info about food and drink from all over Greece, from Athens to Zakynthos.

    Greek Food and Drink

    Greek food and drink is a highlight of any visit and Greece Travel Secrets brings you info about food and drink from all over Greece, from Athens to Zakynthos.

  • Greek feta cheese is the most popular cheese in Greece, usually made from sheep’s milk, with a soft texture and salty taste and used to top off a Greek salad.

    Greek Feta Cheese

    Greek feta cheese is the most popular cheese in Greece, usually made from sheep’s milk, with a soft texture and salty taste and used to top off a Greek salad.

  • Greece Travel Secrets explains the long history of the Greek dish of dolmades, or stuffed vine leaves, which goes back to ancient Greece, and provides a recipe.

    Dolmades

    Greece Travel Secrets explains the long history of the Greek dish of dolmades, or stuffed vine leaves, which goes back to ancient Greece, and provides a recipe.

  • Visiting Santorini wineries is a popular activity on this Greek island in the Cyclades, whose volcanic soil provides a distinctive terroir.

    Santorini Wineries

    Visiting Santorini wineries is a popular activity on this Greek island in the Cyclades, whose volcanic soil provides a distinctive terroir.

  • Greece Travel Secrets visits the Zacharioudakis Winery near Ancient Gortina in southern Crete, and does a vineyard tour arranged by our guide from Go Crete.

    Zacharioudakis Winery

    Greece Travel Secrets visits the Zacharioudakis Winery near Ancient Gortina in southern Crete, and does a vineyard tour arranged by our guide from Go Crete.

  • Greece Travel Secrets tours the Lyrarakis Winery on Crete and learns about Crete grape varieties such as plyto, dafni, vidiano, vilana, mandilari and kotsifali.

    Touring the Lyrarakis Winery on Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets tours the Lyrarakis Winery on Crete and learns about Crete grape varieties such as plyto, dafni, vidiano, vilana, mandilari and kotsifali.

  • Greece Travel Secrets visits the Cretan Botano herbs and spices shop near Matala in southern Crete in search of the herb man of Kouses.

    The Herb Man of Kouses

    Greece Travel Secrets visits the Cretan Botano herbs and spices shop near Matala in southern Crete in search of the herb man of Kouses.

  • Studies have shown the Cretan Diet as one of the healthiest in the world, involving lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, fresh fish, and moderate amounts of wine.

    The Cretan Diet

    Studies have shown the Cretan Diet as one of the healthiest in the world, involving lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, fresh fish, and moderate amounts of wine.

  • The Stilianou Winery near Knossos on Crete uses only Cretan grape varieties, with every bottle numbered, and aims for quality rather than quantity.

    Stilianou Winery near Knossos

    The Stilianou Winery near Knossos on Crete uses only Cretan grape varieties, with every bottle numbered, and aims for quality rather than quantity.

  • We visit and tour the Manousakis Winery on Crete with a wine-tasting and a chance to buy their tsikoudia, sea salt, olive oil and other goodies.

    Manousakis Wine Tasting

    We visit and tour the Manousakis Winery on Crete with a wine-tasting and a chance to buy their tsikoudia, sea salt, olive oil and other goodies.

Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.

Latest Posts

  1. The Parthenon of the Peloponnese: The Temple of Apollo at Bassae

    One of the best-preserved monuments from Classical antiquity, the Temple of Apollo at Bassae is a hidden gem in the mountains of Arcadia.

    Read More

  2. This Greek Island is Europe’s Sunniest Place in May

    Britain’s Express newspaper encourages its readers to experience the beauty and warmth of the Greek island of Kos, the sunniest place in Europe in May.

    Read More

  3. 5+1 Reasons for a Spring Day Trip to Aegina

    Wildflowers, ancient olive trees, nature, and delicious pistachio treats. In the spring, Aegina provides everything you need for the perfect day trip.

    Read More

  4. Santorini Voted Best Island in Europe at US Awards

    Greece wins top honors at this year's American Leisure Lifestyle Awards, with Santorini ranked the "Best Island in Europe" for the 11th consecutive year.

    Read More

  5. Take a drive down California’s Pacific Coast Highway One

    Stretching 656 miles and connecting the coastal redwoods of Northern California to the sandy beaches of Southern California, is SR 1, otherwise known as the California Pacific Coast Highway, the PCH…

    Read More

  6. Highway 1 to Big Sur Has Reopened — What to Know About Visiting from the Bay Area

    If you’ve been eagerly awaiting this Highway 1 reopening and want to plan a long-delayed trip to Big Sur this summer, there are several things that prospective visitors to the region should know. Keep…

    Read More

  7. Matala Beach Festival Revives Hippie Era on Crete

    The international Matala Beach Festival on Crete will transport attendees back to the famous hippie era with live music events, sports, and art activities for children. From July 5 to 7, people of all…

    Read More

  8. Birdwatching on Lesbos

    golden-eagle-pixabay.jpg
    For keen birdwatchers, birdwatching on Lesbos offers a chance to see over 300 species in diverse habitats on a key migratory route between Europe and Africa.

    Read More

  9. Survey: Athens a Bargain Destination for UK Travelers this Year

    British travelers seeking value for money in Europe this year will find it in Athens, according to the annual Post Office Travel Money City Costs Barometer. The Greek capital is once again among the T…

    Read More

  10. Athens City Festival this Week Features Music Events, Treasure Hunts, Museum Visits

    The Greek capital continues to celebrate spring with the 3rd This is Athens – City Festival, presenting a diverse program of events and activities, all with free admission. Throughout the weekend, the…

    Read More