I’m taking a bit of a different twist in today’s blog post on Global Greek Gastronomy. Today’s story is not about a chef or a restaurant, but rather about two mixologists. I was first exposed to that creative world of mixology when I edited the Cincinnati Contemporary Art Center’s book, “Cuisine Art Cocktails” (more on that in this blog post). Then when someone told me about Christos Mazarakis and Giannis Koutsouradis, I knew I would have to write about them. They really embody a specific type of Greek that I am very fond of and want to talk about - that curious, dynamic person who works hard, who adapts in new situations and moves on, who thrives everywhere, this is my kind of Greek. And that is why I wanted to share their story.
Giannis and Christos were students on the island of Chios, home of our Artisan, Citrus Scent of Memory. They started working in night clubs to make some extra money but soon realized they loved the world of mixology. Jobs took them to Athens, Thessaloniki, and Crete, but last year they joined up to enter a Cocktail challenge. Their entry, Renaissance, combined those iconic Chios products, mastiha and tangerines, for a delicious drink. Watch the video, it will make you want to take the next plane to Chios!
What I love about these guys is that they’re not taking the easy road, they’ve decided to return to their island of Chios and give it a chance. This past summer was a difficult one for Chios, as the ongoing refugee crisis and fewer transportation links led to a drop in tourism. Still, Christos and Giannis have decided to open a bar/bistro on the island, calling it OverProof. Here are a few excerpts from my talk with Christos.
Maria: In these difficult financial moments why did you decide to open a bar? And why the name OverProof?
Christos: We realized after the competition that we have very good chemistry and we share the same ideas and perspective. We love our job and we have faith and endless ideas and dreams. We always wanted to open our own bar to share with people our passion and to give every one of them a unique experience. We knew that the times were difficult but we decided that it was a risk that we were willing to take and to try to approach people with our own special way. As for the name - we both love rum and literally speaking, overproof rums are those with an alcohol content greater than 57.5%, although most are bottled and labelled as “151”, meaning an alcohol content of an eye – watering 75.5%. We thought that overproof would be a strong word that not many people would know know and would be curious to ask us about. So it would be a good chance to educate people about drinks to bring them to our philosophy of fine drinking and to impart our culture and the knowledge of our local ingredients (plus we have a rooftop terrace, so there's a nice double meaning to the name!).
M: Speaking of local ingredients, why the Chian tangerine? I wouldn’t have thought of using the spread in a cocktail!
C: Many of our cocktails are also inspired from Chios, the nature, the history, and the local ingredients. We took a walk in the countryside one spring, we smelled the fragrances in the air, and just like that, a recipe came to our minds. We already knew about the premium quality and the uniqueness of the famous Chian Tangerine. Then we learned from the team at Citrus about the delicate, respectful and highly professional process to make all their sweets. Besides the great taste of their Chian Tangerine Spread, one basic reason to use it in a cocktail is the consistency of the product. Because of that consistency, we can serve this cocktail to everyone, local or tourist, any time of the year, with the exact same amazing result.
M: In contemporary gastronomy there is a farm-to-table movement that defines the choices of many Chefs, is there something similar in mixology? How does that impact the kind of creative ingredients are used, do you have that same trend of creative cocktails in Greece that we see in the States?
C: We have the privilege living in the Mediterranean, to use so many fresh ingredients not from the farm but straight from the open fields, from fresh fruits and citrus to spices and herbs, from sour cherry, bergamot, quince to Greek Saffron (also known as Krokos Kozanis), thyme honey, oregano, basil, wild celery. We are also turning to local spirits such as mastiha, souma, raki or tsipouro, tentoura cinammon liqueur, and local wine…they make amazing cocktails.
Stay tuned for the recipe to their Renaissance cocktail!
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