International brand ambassador for Skinos Mastiha and Otto’s Athens Vermouth, Paschalis Kapsalis will be landing at the main stage of the Lonsdale Street Greek Festival this weekend to immerse us in the history and flavour of Greece’s most up-and-coming spirits that have become a global trend.
This is not Paschalis’ first time Down Under, Australia is a favourite destination, one of the many he visits regularly as he roams the world introducing Skinos and Otto’s to the best mixologists.
His two-day stint at the biggest Greek festival in the Antipodes will include bartender training on cocktail making and two centre-stage demonstrations followed by a good dive into some storytelling and a live demonstration on how to recreate iconic cocktails at home and impress their guests!”
“I will be at the Lonsdale Street Greek Festival all day teaching the bar staff how to make Skinos Mastiha and Otto’s Athenian Vermouth cocktails while my shows start at 6pm on both Saturday and Sunday.”
“I’ll be taking you through the Skinos history,” he explains, “focusing on how the brand was born 15 years ago, and on what mastiha is, and its benefits.
“We’ll dive into some storytelling that starts from as early as 600 BC, when mastiha became the magic ingredient in a spirit which travelled throughout the ancient world, becoming known as deliciously satisfying digestive.”
Historically, the fragrant mastiha tree tears have been cherished by Chios islanders and Greeks for over 3000 years, long known as a truly precious commodity due to its life-enhancing properties.
Once mastiha liqueur was only popular in some well-off Greek homes, especially in Athens, with a shot being served as an after lunch digestive; but now it’s everywhere for all to enjoy!
“Out of the World’s Best 50 Bars competition, 42 use Skinos Mastiha,” he enthuses highlighting that Skinos remains the only distilled mastiha spirit in the world.
“This is great news for Greece as mastiha is a monopoly. Skinos is now an international brand, endorsed by 37 countries where it’s being distributed. Skinos mastiha is a 100 per cent Greek product,” he adds stressing that it “has become a global phenomenon due to its uniqueness.”
Similarly with mastiha, Otto’s Athenian Vermouth, is another traditionally Greek aperitif the label chose to regenerate, making it a European brand.
“We’re promoting a Hellenic treat, Hellenic hospitality!” he continues.
“When a guest would come to a Greek home and the hosts would treat them with a vermouth, along with a rosewater loukoumi, otherwise known as a Turkish delight.”
It all started back in 1840, when King Otto, a Philhellene, moved to Athens and appointed Ioannis Vouher to create the original recipe for Athens’s first ever aperitif under the Acropolis. The technique of infused wine dates back to the Ancient Greeks and Vouher selected good quality wine and a range of local herbs and fruits to create it. It has since been enjoyed by Athenians at cellar temperature under the Greek sun. In the 1960s, celebrities the likes of Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor, Omar Sharif, Jean Paul Belmondo and Steve McQueen as well as local celebrities would enjoy their Vermouth in a highball glass with lots of soda over ice at the most fashionable urban spots dotted around the main city triangle.
In 2017, a few steps away from Otto’s house, on the upper floor of a neoclassical building under the buzz of a one of the top 50 bars of the world, The Clumsies, a passionate team revived the great times of Athens Vermouth and crafted the first bottle of Otto’s Athens Vermouth.
High quality Greek wine infused with rose petals, wormwood, citrus fruit, olive leaves and herbs grown under the sun of Athens such as oregano and angelica, creating a uniquely Greek flavour.
Only a few months after the launch of Otto’s Athens Vermouth, the San Francisco World Spirits Competition decided to award it with the Silver Medal in the ‘Aperiti’ category.
The two spirits’ new-found popularity does not come as a surprise to Paschalis who has been working with Skinos for the past five years, and altogether he has been working as a bartender for 14.
“My years behind the bar and all my travels have definitely helped me gain a deep understanding of the worldwide drinking scene,” he said.
Currently working at one of Athens’ most iconic bars, Upupa Epops in Petralona, he says that the Greek capital, and the country in general is regarded highly in terms of bar and culinary culture in recent years.
“It is not just the skills and the thorough knowledge of mixology that makes Greek bartenders and drinks stand out, we are warmer, we are Mediterranean, we wear a smile on our face and we ‘feel’ the customer.”
“We know what philoxenia means.”
*On stage Paschalis Kapsalis will be making four (and perhaps a few more!) of the most popular Skinos & Otto signature cocktails for which he was kind enough to give us the recipes. The two first cocktails – Athenian Spritz and The Med will also be served at the main bar.
Serving glass: bubble
1. Build all the ingredients into a bubble glass,
2. Stir with ice
Serving glass: Highball or Collins
Garnish: Basil sprig
-fresh basil leaves
-50ml / 1 ¾ oz Skinos Mastiha Spirit
-2 lemon wedges or 20ml / ¾ oz fresh lemon juice
-5ml / ¼ oz simple syrup
1. Lightly Muddle basil with lemon wedges in base of glass
2. Add Skinos Mastiha Spirit, lemon juice and sugar
3. Half fill glass with crushed ice and stir
4. Fill glass with more crushed ice and stir some more
5. Top up with soda, stir and serve with straws
Serving glass: Old- fashioned
Garnish: Lemon or orange peel
-50 ml/ 1 ¾ oz Skinos Mastiha Spirit
-20 ml / ¾ oz fresh lemon juice
-1 dash Angostura aromatic bitters
-20 ml / ¾ oz fresh egg white
1.Shake all the ingredients with ice and strain into ice filled glass
2.If you use egg white, firstly dry shake the egg white to make the foam and then shake along with the other ingredients adding ice
Serving glass: Collins
Garnish: Chilled capers on stick or lemon peel twist
-40 ml / 1 1/3 Otto’s Athens Vermouth
-15 ml / ½ oz Skinos Mastiha Spirit
-10 ml / 1/3 oz Campari
1. Pour the first three ingredients with ice
2. Stir and top up with Tonic water
In Australia, Skinos Mastiha and Otto’s Athens Vermouth are distributed by Tirnavos Wines