What do Cretans drink?
There you are, first day of your holidays in Crete, sitting at a local restaurant, blissfully choosing among the promising dishes with strange names on the menu, and ready to order drinks. Wait a minute, you won’t go for ouzo or retsina right? If you are one of us, which means, if drinking the local booze is always part of your travel experience, then this article will help you out.
Let us shed some light on the drinking habits of the locals:
Water: Yes, locals occasionally drink water too, but this article is about the alcoholic beverage preferences in Crete.
Wine: Wine has a long history on this island. House wine is the rule, in most casual local restaurants and in every house as well, as most families make their own. Locals drink this to accompany a casual or festive meal. You’ll also find Cretan bottled wine of excellent quality. A local would opt for that on a special dining occasion.
Ouzo: It’s probably the first drink that comes to your mind when thinking of Greece. But well, in Crete ouzo is mostly drunk on a summer day, to accompany a seafood meal by the seaside. You will probably get some weird looks if you order a glass of ouzo at a bar or at a local restaurant in a mountain village. Don’t worry, though, there is always plenty of understanding for outlanders!
Beer: Always a safe choice. Cretans usually drink beer with meals in the summer or in bars and cafes throughout the day. If there is a local craft beer on the menu, you should definitely try it.
Raki: Last but not least, the fiery water of Crete. Also called tsikoudia and not to be confused with Turkish raki, this usually homemade beverage is almost a synonym of the Cretan spirit (literally and metaphorically). Locals sip it or shoot it at pretty much every occasion, before, during or after meals at a traditional taverna, a rakadiko (also called mezedopolio, the Cretan version of a tapas house) o at the kafenio (a traditional cafe). It is always accompanied with some nibbles, nuts, plain meze or proper food. It’s not a drink for the faint of heart, as it can be quite strong. Light drinkers might find the rakomelo version more enjoyable.
Rakomelo: Mostly drunk warm in the winter, but also served chilled, this is raki mixed with honey and spices. Locals drink this the same way as raki, but mostly in the winter to warm up or as a remedy when they catch a cold. It is perfectly OK to order this instead of raki to pair it with your meze.
By Nikki Stavroulaki