Just in time for Christmas, a new liqueur from Greece is trying to outdo ouzo as that country’s unofficial national spirit.
Skinos Mastiha is relatively new to LCBO shelves but the sweet clear liqueur is already a hit back in Greece. Its name comes from the mastiha or mastic “weeping trees” that grow on the Greek island of Chios in the Aegean Sea and produce crystalline resin droplets.
People have been using mastiha (pronounced mahs-TEEKH-hah) all the way back to ancient times. The aromatic resin from the evergreen mastic trees is said to aid digestion, freshen your breath (it was the original chewing gum) and even cure ulcers.
Distilled into a spirit, it’s found in all the top bars, restaurants and hotels in Greece, says Steve Kriaris, president of Kolonaki Group, which distributes the Skinos Mastiha here.
What does it taste like?
“It’s like a rainbow of taste on the tongue!” I was informed at the recent Toronto Gourmet Food and Wine Expo, where Skinos had a booth. With its hints of juniper and spearmint and aromas of cedar and violet, it does defy easy description.
It’s sweet. Kriaris says the distillers spent a long time figuring out the perfect ratio of alcohol to sugars, finally settling on 30 per cent alcohol per volume with an “Opa!”-inducing 25 grams of sugar.
Skinos is versatile. Suggested uses include as an aperitif, a martini base (called a “mastini,” naturally) or in today’s cocktail, the Med. Light and refreshing, the fresh basil adds a savoury note.
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