Written by Chris Benjamin, director of food and beverage at the Essex Resort and Spa.

Given the choice between writing about Easter drinks (which conjures visions of cute critter beverages such as a pink squirrel, a chocolate rabbit or a marshmallow egg) or Greek Easter, which has been explained to me as the greatest celebrated feast day in Greece, I chose the latter.

Not only am I deeply intrigued by the culture (I’ve been interested in Greece since learning about Greek mythology back in school), but Greece is also the home of some very interesting beverages. Although wine is slowly starting to gain speed there, my first introduction to Greek beverages came from sampling Retsina, which is a wine created when ancient Greeks filled amphorae (large double-handled vases) with wine and sealed them with pine pitch. At that time, they believed the wine was better due to the pitch, not because the pitch sealed the wine from air.

Today, Retsina is made from Savatiano grapes; a few pinches of pine pitch is added to the must, creating a unique flavor (in some folks’ minds). Try a bottle of Kourtaki next time you’re up for something different.

Another equally interesting beverage is ouzo. Ouzo is an anise-flavored drink that is widely consumed in Greece. Its history dates way back, and there’s a lot of controversy around its origins. Closely resembling raki (another licorice-flavored alcohol), ouzo is often drank neat or blended with water. It is traditionally served with Greek mezedes, which are appetizers consisting of octopus, calamari, fried zucchini, clams, and salads. Ouzo is sometimes drunk very cold but traditionally served neat. Another interesting fact about ouzo: If you add water, it will become milky white. This is due to the fact that anethole, the oil of anise, is soluble in alcohol but not in water. Coming out of the solution, it disperses light and therefore creates the cloudy effect. This is true of most anise-flavored liqueurs. Try it with sambuca or absinthe, if you’d like.

Easter is also an indication of the changing of the climate, and based on our weather forecasts, I’m looking forward to some warm temperatures this weekend. So in the spirit (no pun intended) of spring, we wanted to offer a different twist on ouzo– the ouzo citratini. We find it very refreshing and just the kind of drink you want to kick off the warm weather. Enjoy the holiday and your families, and have fun with the ouzo citratini this weekend. Enjoy!

Ouzo Citratini
1 ½ oz. ouzo
1 ½ oz. Absolut Citron
1 oz. lemonade

Combine ingredients over ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled martini glass and add a twist of lemon.

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