From traditional tavernas overlooking the Aegean to upscale dining experiences in luxury restaurants in the heart of the island’s capital, Mykonos is indeed a Greek island that knows how to please one’s palate. Besides the delicious local dishes whose explosive flavours burst inside the mouth, you will also find all traditional Greek drinks both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, like ouzo, tsipouro, and retsina, as well as wine from locally-grown vineyards and, of course, the ubiquitous soumada!
It is usually produced by distilling the leftovers (grape skin and seeds) from winemaking. In some regions, it is also mixed with aromatic herbs like aniseed, cloves, or cinnamon. Those into pure traditional tastes prefer to drink distilled ouzo without the addition of herbs. You may drink it straight (as is) or mix it with water. In the second case, the aniseed essential oils are released, giving the “ouzo effect”, where the transparent drink becomes milky (and the aromas are amplified).
However, you may ask to have it shaken over ice with sugar, lemon juice, and crushed mint leaves and enjoy the Greek version of a Mojito!
Ouzo is served chilled (with ice cubes or not) in small (shot) glasses and is typically accompanied by mezedes such as feta cheese, olives, rice-stuffed grape leaves, and, of course, kopanisti cheese. Seafood also goes well with ouzo (try it with marinated anchovies or octopus) and the same applies to spicy pickled peppers.
It is a close relative to ouzo and is made from grapes that are not meant to be used for wine-making. The spirit produced is of top quality, and you may also hear it referred to as raki or tsikoudia. They are basically all names for the same alcoholic drink with minor differences in the degree of alcoholic content and the addition of aniseed or not (raki, for example, is a pure beverage, without aniseed). You can find out how strong a tsipouro is by looking at the information on the label of the bottle (typically, it is an 80-proof spirit). Home-distilled tsipouro, though, could have much more than the standard degree of alcoholic content. Finally, tsipouro is often mixed with honey from local beehives. In this case, it is called Rakomelo.
Popular mezedes for your tsipouro include local preserved meats (see louza), ksinotiri (local cheese), and roasts. Enjoy it at room temperature or chilled!
There are plenty of traditional grape presses all around Mykonos that take grapes from small vineyards to produce a sun-dried varietal wine with a distinct deep red colour. You will find it named as Mavri Kountoura. Nevertheless, there are several varieties to please all tastes. For example, there is the white Pariano, the white and red Xylomachairou and Potamisi, along with the white Kouforogo and the black-grape Askatharia.
Retsina is actually white wine that has been flavoured with the resin of a tree that is known for its pine tang. This follows an old tradition that wanted the wine to be stored in barrels made from the wood of this tree. Once the barrels were opened, the beverage had its flavour enhanced by the wood, which gave it a unique taste. To maintain the authentic character, manufacturers add the resin of this tree to the beverage (especially when wine is not stored the traditional way). Have it served chilled, and take slow sips!
Soumada is a non-alcoholic drink that is present everywhere on the island. It is a sweet beverage made from rose water (some regions prefer orange flower water instead), sugar, and almonds. Originally, it was made with a blend of almond and barley and is a favourite syrup used to flavour cocktails.
Happy drinking (just make sure you don’t drive afterwards)!