Mastiha: what is it, how is it produced, and which cocktails to make with this Greek liqueur?
Masticha, also called Mastika or Mastiha, is a splendid Greek liqueur produced on the island of Chios, starting from simple alcohol flavored with mastic resin, in Greek called μαστίχα.
As it is easy to guess, the name of these Chios pearls comes from chewing, given that these resin pearls with citrus, mountain pine, and chlorophyll flavors, were the ancestors of balsamic candies and chewing gum.
But today, we will talk about the excellent Greek brandy, not confectionery. This liqueur has balsamic aromas of unprecedented finesse, a sweet and complex flavor, good alcohol content, and deepness.
Few are the liqueurs that manage to express such intense, aromatic and sumptuous notes simultaneously, without losing momentum and grace.
It is an artisanal product, made with care and great attention, has unique characteristics that make it perfect as an aperitif liqueur for after dinner, but above all, it is an excellent ingredient for making great cocktails.
Organoleptic characteristics of Mastiha liqueur
The bouquet is entangling, very fresh, and full of scents of pine, cedar, bergamot, and all the citrus fruits of the world.
There is no shortage of very green herbaceous references of lemongrass, chlorophyll, and distinctly vegetable flavors: but afterward, we are drinking the blood and soul of the mastic tree, typical trees of the Mediterranean scrub, which grow on poor soils and cling to the rocks, digging and resisting the wind.
Salt, almost an iodized appeal, is the other typical scent of mastika that mixes with more resinous tones of juniper, bark, and pepper.
The flavor is velvety, sweet but never too mellow. On the contrary, it has a rhythm, development, and sapid extension. Among the liqueurs, it has few comparisons. It is a unique product that manages to condense Greece’s flavors, the wind, the sea, and the sun in liquid poetry.
How to drink Mastika
Serve it in well-cooled glasses at 10 degrees. Never with ice; otherwise, your palate will not be able to savor its nuances.
What cocktails to make with Masticha
It is a liqueur with a marked, citrusy and aromatic strong taste, so try to combine it with simple or not too aged fruity spirits. Paired with Cuban white rum, it will give strength and splendor to the classic Daiquiris. If you mix it with lime juice, vodka, and ginger beer, it will enhance your Moscow Mules, but also with a good mezcal, orange juice, and pepper, it finds excellent harmony. You do not need large doses. 1 cl of mastika, you will make the drinks explode, so do not use large quantities. It is a triple sec style flavoring (very different in flavor).
History of the Masticha liqueur
Greece has an excellent liqueur, winemaking, and distillation tradition. In some ways, it is very reminiscent of Italy, although obviously, we have to adapt the gustatory register to Greek tradition and taste, made of salt, sun, and rocks. And Masticha is the synthesis of these flavors: earth full of stones on which these solitary trees grow that hides precious nectar, drops of condensed resin, slowly extracted from the plants.
Mastic is used to make chewing gum, sweets, candies, and even the legendary Turkish gluey ice cream, dondurma. It is no coincidence that the name of the island of Chios in Turkish means the isle of rubber, recognition for what is a precious resin known since Hippocrates, who recommended chewing it to purify the stomach and fight bad breath. Many hastened to call it a superfood when in reality, it is a precious gem with nothing super. On the contrary, it is tradition. It is a natural distillation of flavors and culture, but fashions must feed the market, and today even mastic is considered a weird marketing food.
And this product is part of the traditional production of anise-flavored ouzo and the retsina, flavored wines of ancient origins. Wines that, as you well know, have been produced for millennia, flavored with resins, honey and spices. It is very similar to those that the Romans created and appreciated after coming into contact with Greece and submitting it militarily. One of the most famous of these seasoned wines was Piperatum, a mulled wine seasoned with mastic, spices, and honey.
Price of Masticha liqueur
It is not cheap, at least 28-30 euros per bottle. And it is ok. It is not cheap sambuca but a noble and sumptuous liqueur made with resin-flavored wine brandy, even if the more affordable products often include the flavoring of alcohol by infusion of wood.