Why Mastiha Belongs on Your Bar Cart Now
The ancient spirit is having a true comeback moment in the United States.
With a 3,000 year history dating back to the ancient Greeks, we’d be hard-pressed to call mastiha a new trend. But in the United States, where we often associate the spirit with polarizing flavors like sambuca and anise, mixologists and cocktail-mavens alike are just now starting to warm up to mastiha as a low-sugar, aromatic option that could easily become the next St. Germain.
To raise awareness and appreciation for the spirit, Johnny Livanos, general manager at New York City’s Ousia, says he likes to offer guests a cold glass of Skinos mastiha at the end of a meal, then sit back to watch their preconceived notions dissolve with each sip. “A lot of people actually get herbal, earthy notes,” he says. “Others will say menthol, mint, and cucumber. For me, mastiha smells like a raw, shaved carrot. Once you’ve tasted it, you can pinpoint it in anything. ” Behind the bar, Livanos also leans on mastiha to enhance the smokiness of mezcal or the botanicals of gin, and says he prefers to keep a bottle in the freezer as opposed to drinking it on the rocks.
During a recent taste test of mastihas currently distributed in the United States, team Food & Wine found that Verino mastiha has a dry, balanced flavor, while Skinos, which Livanos calls his “workhorse” mastiha, has a sweeter, smooth finish. Mastic Tears, which are made by distilling the droplets of resin from mastic trees found only on the Greek island of Chios, has a concentrated pine taste that makes it perfect for enjoying over ice on a hot day.
Here are a few cocktail bars around the country that are using mastiha in exciting, inspiring ways:
Blossom Bar (Boston, MA): The Malatang Cocktail –– Kleos mastiha, Perry’s Tot Gin, Sichuan oil, lemon, passionfruit foam
Zaytinya (Frisco, TX): Mastiha Cooler –– Bombay Sapphire gin, Skinos mastiha, cucumber, bitter lemon soda
The Roger Room (Los Angeles, CA): Heard it Through the Grapevine –– Cognac, mastiha, lime juice, green grapes, tonic
Sunday in Brooklyn (NYC): Pool Party Yay! –– Yarrow flower infused Weller bourbon, Stoupakis mastiha, lo-fi dry vermouth, and giffard bleu curacao
Ousia (NYC): Via Sangria–– Red wine, brandy, orange liqueur, blood orange, pineapple, mastiha