Picture this: you’re drinking a (seemingly) bottomless, watermelon-infused cocktail in the Greek Islands. Maybe on Chios, the fifth largest of the Greek Islands found in the Aegean Sea, best known for its export of mastic gum, the base for the Greek spirit of Mastiha.
Mastiha is “a protected origin tree sap that has been used for cooking thousands of years, and even going back to ancient Greece as it was mentioned [being] used as the original gum due to its aromatic properties,” says Ilias Mastrogiannis, owner and distiller of Mastrogiannis Distillery in Lakewood, Washington, sole producer of the spirit in the state.
Mastrogiannis produces its Mastiha spirit using raw Mastiha gum imported from Greece, which is added into an unaged Washington Riesling brandy base then aged for four months. “During that time all the Mastiha flavor gets extracted into the high proof spirit,” Mastrogiannis says. “At the end, we redistill the spirit one more time, truly capturing only the hearts of that distillate for a handcrafted spirit.”
The distillery focuses on producing exclusively grape-and apple-based products using 100-percent Washington fruit, which helps the Mastiha shine in The Med, a crowd-sized, watermelon-infused recipe Mastrogiannis proudly created for his daughter’s baptism.
“Mastiha in Greece is usually drunk as a liqueur, we didn’t like the added sweeteners, so we created a dry version of one of our favorite spirits,” he adds. “It works great for cocktails like the Med, but we also enjoy it over ice with a slice of fresh lemon.”
Inspired by the season, Mastrogiannis believes Mastiha captures summer in Greece. So sail away to Chios in your mind and enjoy imbibing.
1 (750ml) bottle Mastrogiannis Mastiha
3 cups cubed or balled watermelon
2 cups fresh lemon juice
1 (23.5oz) bottle blue agave syrup
1 package fresh mint, leaves picked
Place the watermelon into a blend and blend into a pure, fine liquid. Strain into a pitcher. Add the fresh lemon juice, agave syrup and Mastiha. Add the fresh mints leaves on top and mix well. Server over lots of ice.