Skinos on the Rocks

Mastic gum teardrops
Mastic gum teardrops

Most of you are enjoying a leisurely Easter long weekend. I do hope you’re spending time with family and friends, enjoying good food and good cheer.

Today I’m going to introduce to you Skinos, a liqueur made from mastic (mastiha) gum. img_3735

Mastiha is a resinous sap produced from the trunk and branches of the Mastic tree. The mastic sap is extracted by scratching the surface of the tree with a sharp implement. The sap falls to the ground and becomes crystalized into little nuggets, referred to as mastic tears.

The mastic used for Skinos and also the most cherished of mastic tears come from the Greek island of Chios (Hee-YOs). Chios is the fifth largest of the Greek islands, located in the Aegean Sea, just 5 miles from thecoast of Turkey.

The southern part of the island is the only part of the island where mastic production occurs. The collective of villages that produce mastic are known in Greek as the Mastichohoria or literally translated as Mastic Villages. Mastic production in the Mastichohoria has occurred since the Roman period and it is said that Masticha only grows on the Southern part of the island, due to the volcanic soil content.img_3757

Today, mastic is used in pharmeceuticals to combat upset stomachs, gastrointestinal disorders and ulcers and there are many applications of mastiha in the cosmetics and beauty care industry. The Mastiha Shop has an extensive website that goes in depth into the history, production and applications of production. It was really a good read!

Mastiha is also used in Greek cuisine in breads (my family includes Mastic in our Greek Easter bread called Tsoureki), cakes, desserts and some savoury dishes as well. The mastic tears are ground and then incorporated into a particular recipe.img_3885

Elma brand chewing gum contains mastic as it’s properties help to also fight bad breath. Mastic has a floral aroma to it, quite pleasant in my opinion and as for the taste…that’s more difficult to explain.

You see, mastic is also used to produce Mastixa liquour which is as strong as Ouzo, looks like Ouzo and one coud say tastes similie to Ouzo but without that “anise” flavouring.

A bottle of Mastika spirit, from the family liquor cabinet
A bottle of Mastikha spirit, from the family liquor cabinet

When I was a teenager tending bar for a family gathering, I made the mistake of serving our Parish priest with Mastiha when he asked for Ouzo! The two apertifs are similar in flavour and they also stand alone in their taste. Greeks who enjoy either Ouzo or Mastiha are usually divided into two camps (preferring one to the other).

Myself, I’m partial to the anise flavouring of Ouzo but I do also enjoy Mastiha and in particular, today’s focus of my post…Skinos Mastic Liqueur. Skinos is the ancient Greek word for Mastic tree and although the Mastiha aperatif has been around for ages, this liqueur is a relative newcomer on the scene.img_3733

The Skinos liqueur is the product of pot distillation. That is to say, the alcoholic vapours coming of the bulk of the liquid are condensed above the liquid on the still outlet, on the way to the condenser.

Skinos is sweeter and contains less alcohol than the usual Mastiha found in Greek tavernas and homes. I first had the pleasure of sipping this drink during a recent visit to Toronto’s Greektown, known as “the Danforth”.

Simply grab a tumbler, throw in some ice and pour yourself a good shot of Skinos. Add a slice of lemon and sip this refreshing liqueur – savour it! For me, this drink works best as an after-dinner digestive…think of it as an alternative to Sambucca. Not as sweet, more complex in flavour, very different, floral and most refreshing with the lemon slice.img_3734-1

Here in Ontario, Skinos is on offer through the LCBO stores and I found my bottle at the store located on the Danforth, just east of Broadview.

In the coming days, I’ll be showing you more ways to incorporate Mastic in your food and drinks. My family’s Greek Easter Bread contains mastic, I’ll be showing you some sweet and savory dishes with the use of mastic and I’ll even throw in some cocktails using Skinos!

I’m sending this drink out to my friend Nicole of Art & Aoli who’s celebrating her blog’s Anniversary. Bring an appetizer or beverage by April 13th and give her a shout-out….tell her Peter sent ya!

Sthn Ygeia Mas (To Our Health)!

NOTE: Your favourite Greek food store will carry Mastiha. Here in Toronto, my friends at Greek House on the Danforth sell Mastiha.

If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at  http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.

© 2007-2009 Peter Minakis

© 2009 – 2010,
Peter Minakis

. All rights reserved.

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42 Comments for “Skinos on the Rocks”

says:

very interesting post about masticha – i’d never heard of skinos before, and i’m not partial to ouzo-type drinks, but this is one i’d like to try

says:

I just heard about mastic for the first time the other day. It sounds really interesting. I am going to have to head down to Greek town to pick up the liqueur and to see if I can find the crystals.

Kay

says:

I haven’t seen mastic here, but there are jars of a white, mastic flavored preserve in the international deli.

What would that be good for?

says:

Although I am not much of a drinker I enjoy the liqueur once in a while. I’ll have to look for skinos next time.

says:

Στην υγεια μας λοιπον !
Δεν εχω δοκιμασει τη συνγκεκριμενη αλλα μ’αρεσει μετα το φαγητο !

says:

Thanks for the primer on mastic. As you know, I’ve got a jar sitting in my pantry just waiting for inspiration — so I’m looking forward to your future posts on the subject.

says:

Thanks for the read. I had never seen mastic gums before.. I had heard so much about it. didn’t know one could make liquor with it!

says:

Peter, I love you new header and just know that though I may not comment on every post, I do read all of them.

Happy Easter!

says:

Thanks for the lesson, I did not know about this.
Love your new graphics.

I’ve been visiting my family out of town so I have a lot of catching up to do, looking forward to reading your previous posts.
LL

says:

How totally cool Peter. I love learning about different food/drink I am unfamiliar with. I’ve been to Greece but have never heard of this. Thanks!

–Marc

says:

[…] εκλεψα ενα ποτηρακι μαστιχα που ειχε ο αγαπημενος μας Καλοφαγας Παντελης Cheers! Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Greatness of Lord Rama.LORD RAMA AND […]

says:

Interesting post! I don’t much care for alcohol myself, other than for cooking, but I love learning about things I don’t know about. Thanks for the primer.

says:

Now I am on a mission to find this liquor. Hopefully I can be successful because it sounds like something I would really enjoy.

Kate

says:

I have always wondered about this ‘ mastic’ stuff. I have heard it is also used to flavor Turkish Delight, would that be true. They sell it at my local supermarket but the text is written in Greek which I can’t read. Thanks for tute!

Debbie

says:

Thank you for sharing the delights of Greek cuisine.
Got my first every bottle of Skinos, here in QC on the weekend, my 14 daughter took a sip and remarked it tasted of carrots….. so I added a teaspoon over justed steam carrots and the heavens sung…
WOW, outstanding !
Hope you give this a try….
I have some tears somewhere in the back of the pantry – so keep on posting I’ll find them soon :-)

says:

THanks – very informative post. I had heard of mastic but was a little vague on what exactly it is. Had also never heard of the liqueur before – thanks for filling us in!

Stacy

says:

This is the most amazing liqueur ever! We just came back from Greece where we had it almost every day :) I’m trying to find it in LA now. Thanks for a very informative post!

says:

I used to be addicted to mastic gum but now those (thieves from Jordan) call it “mastic” but they put some kind of fennel in it. In Beirut, I looked for Mastic gum, niet! What is going on? Is Greece hoarding it?
I remember pulling the sap of some trees as a kid, mixing it with candle wax and chewing on it for hours. Was it mastic? I don’t know but I want my mastic gum back!