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Greek Spirits Beyond Ouzo: Metaxa and Mastiha Liqueur

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For many American drinkers, the question of Greek spirits begins and ends with Ouzo. However, the world of Hellenic distilling contains multitudes beyond that divisive anise aperitif. Two examples can quickly be found in the form of Metaxa and the cryptic category of Mastiha liqueurs.

To learn more about each, I spoke with Effie Panagopoulos, a Greek-American originally from Boston who is in a unique position to speak about both. From 2007-2011, Panagopoulos served as a national brand ambassador for Metaxa, and is today the founder and CEO of her own Mastiha liqueur brand, Kleos.

Metaxa is a Greek spirits brand first founded in 1888 by Spyros Metaxa. Today it produces seven varieties of Metaxa, which the brand itself refers to as “amber spirit.”

While Metaxa is often compared to brandy, Panagopoulos has her own way of describing it.

“I call it the gin of brown spirits,” she says. “It’s made with three indigenous Greek grape varietals, aged, and sweetened with Muscat wine from the islands of Samos and Lemnos, and then steeped in rose petals. It’s absolutely beautiful, and has so many more levels to play with and enhance than a typical cognac or other brown spirit.”

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