Where to Drink in Athens: Odori Vermuteria
While we spent most of our time in Greece on the islands, we couldn’t pass so close by Athens without saying hello. We spent a morning visiting the Acropolis. Speaking honestly, the Acropolis has never been on our bucket lists, but we’re happy to admit now that we were wrong. We didn’t expect it to be as awe-inspiring as it was to see in person something so very familiar from schoolbook photos . It’s grand and ghostly, beautiful in its ruined state, while also hinting at how much more splendid it must have been 2500 years ago.
We came down from the hilltop and wandered the streets of Athens’ old town, Plaka. It was a hot and dusty day. So, after a while, we thought we’d sit down at a sidewalk cafe for a little refreshment before our evening flight out of town. Earlier in our wanderings, it had seemed like there was a cafe on every corner. Suddenly, when we were looking for one, the streets were abandoned. We were about to give up when we turned a corner to see a lively patio on an inviting little square. Just what we were looking for. In fact, it was more than what we were looking for; it wasn’t a cafe, but a vermouth bar. Even better, it was a vermouth bar that a friend of a friend had suggested as one of the best cocktail places in Athens. Surely, the Fates had led us here.
We took a look at the menu, and what a menu it was. It was a gorgeous pop up book in which every recipe very literally had its own story. The stories were in Greek; so we can’t speak to the literary quality. Thankfully, though, the ingredients listings were in English, and they looked delicious.
What We Ordered
Aged Picadilly: aged Greek brandy, aged Odori vermouth, grenadine and rhubarb syrup, absinth, aromatic bitters
King Otto’s Highball: Otto’s Athens vermouth, Skinos mastiha spirit, Amer Picon, Three Cents lemon tonic
What We Thought
The Aged Picadilly was as beautifully rich and mellow as we were hoping. We didn’t have the opportunity to try the house made vermouth straight, but in the cocktail, in its aged state it was rich and fruity, melding nicely with the grape flavors of the brandy. Rhubarb in the grenadine was a nice touch, and also an intriguing idea; we made a note to do some future exploration of adding secondary flavors to grenadine. Small touches of absinth and bitters were used to adjust the seasoning, as it were, adding just the right amount of complexity to the flavor. The drink was garnished with a smear of some kind of salty crumble along one side of the glass. It gave the drink’s appearance a bit of drama, though it was hard to get a good taste of it.
King Otto’s Highball was an utter delight. Using the rose vermouth as the base to the drink was an inspired choice. Skinos mastiha is a spirit made from pine resin. It has a lovely, interesting flavor, but tends to turn drinks a bit syrupy when used as a base. The vermouth, on the other hand, gave the drink an essential crispness. In its secondary role, the mastiha offered just the right amount of sappiness, which was countered nicely by the amaro’s bitterness.
Otto’s Highball Cocktail Recipe
We don’t have Odori’s actual recipe, and two of its specific ingredients–Otto’s vermouth and Amer Picon–are unavailable in the states. So, we don’t think this recipe deserves the royal title of the original. But try this, and you’ll get some sense of what the drink was like.
- 2 oz rose vermouth–you probably won’t find one. A good substitute would be Lillet Rose. If not that, a vermouth bianco
- 1/2 oz mastiha–Skinos is increasingly widely available, and we’ve even seen a couple of other brands
- 1/2 oz Amaro Ramazzotti
- 3 oz lemon tonic
- Combine the vermouth, mastiha, and amaro in a highball glass.
- Fill the glass with ice.
- Top with tonic.