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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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