0Beers, wines, and spirits of Crete

Beers, wines, and spir­its are all pro­duced on Crete and are widely avail­able along­side oth­er Greek drinks and some well recog­nised glob­al brands. If you want to know what to look out for look no fur­ther

Beer

Cretan Brew­ery near Chania which pro­duces loc­al beer, and is also open to the pub­lic for vis­its. Oth­er Greek beers include the ubi­quit­ous Myth­os but since it became more glob­al I don’t think it is as good as it used to be and would now recom­mend altern­at­ives e.g. Alfa or Fix. Sadly all of these are pro­duced by brew­er­ies that are now owned by mul­tina­tion­als (Heinek­en and Carls­berg). If you can find it Ver­gina is a Greek beer that isn’t owned by a mul­tina­tion­al. The most com­mon glob­al brands of beer you’ll find are Heinek­en and Amstel. A few places do have draught beer (ask for varelísia) and when avail­able I always recom­mend this regard­less of the label. Wiki­pe­dia has a fairly up-to-date list of the micro­brew­er­ies in Greece, altho you are only likely to find beers from these loc­al to where they are. In all cases the beers are bet­ter than the typ­ic­al lagers avail­able in most UK pubs so whatever you choose you wont be dis­ap­poin­ted.

Wine

Wine is widely avail­able and often loc­ally made, which isn’t sur­pris­ing giv­en the pre­val­ence of grape vines in Crete. Greece is also famed for Retsina which is a a ‘res­in­ated wine’, i.e. wine with added tree res­in, which has been pro­duced since the time of the ancient Greeks. Retsina is an acquired taste, so whilst I recom­mend try­ing it, be pre­pared for it not being to your taste. Greece as a whole has a repu­ta­tion for pro­du­cing wine in quant­ity rather than qual­ity, but this is rather out-dated as the 21st cen­tury has seen a big increase in the avail­ab­il­ity of great Greek (and Cretan) wines. The wine served in most res­taur­ants is very pleas­ant, and loc­al wines can be found eas­ily in the super­mar­kets, but loc­ally pro­duced ones and more form­al branded wines from around Greece. The web­site CretanWines.gr has lots of inform­a­tion about the many winer­ies that cab be found on Crete.

Spirits

By far the most pop­u­lar loc­al spir­it is known to loc­als as raki, although it is more prop­erly known as tsikoud­ia. Don’t be con­fused with oth­er drinks called Raki found else­where which often have an anise fla­vour — Cretan raki is not anise fla­voured. It is a clean white spir­it in a sim­il­ar style to vodka although due to being made with leftover grape mash it has a very dif­fer­ent fla­vour to vodka. It is most sim­il­ar to Itali­an grapa, but is still dis­tinct. Many loc­als pro­duce their own so in some moun­tain vil­lages and cafes Raki can be very cheap com­pared with impor­ted beers. I recom­mend order­ing a kara­faki which is a 100–150ml open glass ‘flask’, along­side a litre of water. You will get a shot-size glass for the raki and a typ­ic­al small glass for the water. I drink the 2 unmixed, but to stay healthy fin­ish the water before order­ing more raki! Raki is also often brought out at the end of a meal along­side fruit in some tav­ernas. You can also find ouzo (which is anise fla­voured) in Crete although it is more pop­u­lar on the main­land. Last but cer­tainly not least you will find the sweet Greek brandy Metaxa which comes in a range of qual­it­ies. The 3* is a very reas­on­able brandy but I prefer the 5* myself. The 7* is dif­fer­ent to the 5* but not neces­sar­ily bet­ter. How­ever, if you are going to drink Brandy, I recom­mend get­ting some of the 12* and drink­ing it with a little ice but no mix­er. The 12* can be harder to find and is often more expens­ive in Crete than it is in the UK. It is typ­ic­ally avail­able for only £25-£30 on amazon in the UK. I did one find some spe­cial 12* called grand olympi­an reserve which was even bet­ter than the nor­mal 12* and very reas­on­ably priced, but sadly I haven’t been able to find this for quite a num­ber of years now. If you find some for under €50 I can recom­mend it.

Cocktails

Cock­tails in Crete are gen­er­ally quite expens­ive as they are only served in bars and res­taur­ants tar­get­ting afflu­ent young people and tour­ists — they are no some­thing you see older loc­als drink­ing. How­ever, if you do want to make cock­tails it is quite cheap to do so if you make you own, thanks to the wide range and low price of spir­its and mix­ers. Impor­ted things like branded ‘Red Bull’ or Scotch whisky are expens­ive, but many fruit juices, schnapps, vodka, etc are cheap and widely avail­able.

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