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.

Other food and drink pages

  • If you're wondering where to eat in Athens and Piraeus we have a few suggestions including some favorites around the Acropolis, Omonia Square, and Syntagma.

    Where to Eat in Athens and Piraeus

    If you're wondering where to eat in Athens and Piraeus we have a few suggestions including some favorites around the Acropolis, Omonia Square, and Syntagma.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • UNESCO has made Thessaloniki a City of Gastronomy, under its Creative Cities network, the only city in Greece to be acknowledged for its unique food and drink.

    Thessaloniki: City of Gastronomy

    UNESCO has made Thessaloniki a City of Gastronomy, under its Creative Cities network, the only city in Greece to be acknowledged for its unique food and drink.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • A visit to the Museum of Samos Wine to learn about the muscat grapes that produce the best dessert wines in the world and also the Greek spirit, Metaxa.

    Museum of Samos Wine

    A visit to the Museum of Samos Wine to learn about the muscat grapes that produce the best dessert wines in the world and also the Greek spirit, Metaxa.

  • 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.

  • Greece Travel Secrets visits Crete and learns about making rakomelo from Jorgos Kourmoulis in Agouseliana.

    Making Rakomelo on Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets visits Crete and learns about making rakomelo from Jorgos Kourmoulis in Agouseliana.

  • How to make Petimezi, the sweet Cretan syrup made from wine must, is explained to Greece Travel Secrets.

    How to Make Petimezi

    How to make Petimezi, the sweet Cretan syrup made from wine must, is explained to Greece Travel Secrets.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • The Goules Taverna in Goulediana, south of Rethymnon, has been called one of the best tavernas on Crete and Greece Travel Secrets recently visited them.

    Goules Taverna Crete

    The Goules Taverna in Goulediana, south of Rethymnon, has been called one of the best tavernas on Crete and Greece Travel Secrets recently visited them.

  • For a Crete olive oil tour Greece Travel Secrets visits Biolea, one of the few olive oil factories on Crete that you can visit.

    Crete Olive Oil Tour

    For a Crete olive oil tour Greece Travel Secrets visits Biolea, one of the few olive oil factories on Crete that you can visit.

  •  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.

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. Spetses: The Ultimate Autumn Guide

    Timeless hangouts, useful addresses and cool tips for an unforgettable weekend on the Saronic island of Spetses, just two hours by ferry from Athens.

    Read More

  2. Recipe: Soumada, the Drink of Happiness

    Traditionally served at happy occasions, this sweet almond drink scented with orange flower water is easy to make, and a wonderful treat for guests.

    Read More

  3. Samothraki: Another Greece, Forgotten by Time

    With its rugged, untamed beauty and rich history, Samothraki in the northern Aegean doesn't fit into any of the familiar molds.

    Read More

  4. 8 Excellent Athens Restaurants for Sharing Food

    These restaurants in the heart of Athens celebrate the quintessentially Greek tradition of bringing people together to share plate-loads of delicious food.

    Read More

  5. The Best Hotels in Athens

    Greece Travel Secrets gives its choice of the best hotels in Athens from budget and moderate options through to 5-star luxury choices.

    Read More

  6. Athens listed as a Top 10 most beautiful city for the second time

    Greece has not stopped breaking one record after another in recent years - from tourism to important economic indicators that testify to the enormous dynamics that the country has developed in recent…

    Read More

  7. Jet2 Adds New Routes to Greece, Increases Seat Capacity to 1.3 Million

    UK airline and tour operator to Greece Jet2 on Tuesday announced that it was expanding its 2023 program for the country even further with the addition of new routes, increase of seat capacity and seas…

    Read More

  8. Ultra-runners to Set Off for the 40th Spartathlon from the Acropolis on Friday

    Nearly 400 super athletes from across the globe will set off from the foot of the Acropolis in Athens on Friday, September 30, morning to run 246km (153 miles) to the Peloponnesian town of Sparta for…

    Read More

  9. ‘Athens Full of Tourists’ as Greece Extends Tourism Season

    International travelers are still visiting Greece in the shoulder season which validates the Tourism Ministry’s efforts to extend the season and keep visitors coming into the fall and winter, said Tou…

    Read More

  10. A Walk around Kolonáki

    This walk around the Kolonaki neighbourhood of Athens starts and ends in Syntagma Square and takes you to several museums, Kolonaki Square and Mount Lykabettos.

    Read More