Ode to a Grecian Booze

When forced to drink with the Greeks, forgo the ouzo in favor of metaxa, a brandy-liqueur hybrid.

Metaxa and I first met at a team-building exercise my then-restaurant called "every night after work." It was my first job working for Greeks, and when you work for Greeks, you drink with Greeks. The Greeks drank ouzo, a stalwart anisette spirit I both fear and loathe. So to drink with the Greeks (and ergo keep my job), I had to shoot Metaxa, the only widely available Greek spirit that did not taste like Good & Plenty–laced diesel. Metaxa sips more smoothly than hairy-chested bourbon, but is nothing like the liqueurs that should only be drunk by sorority girls (like amaretto). An amber spirit, Metaxa is made mostly of brandy, or alcohol distilled from wine. That brandy is aged in wood casks and then blended with aged muscat wine and botanicals. Metaxa is a similar species to Grand Marnier, but not as dominated by one note. It smells lightly of vanilla, with hints of orange and dark spice, and tastes somewhere between sweet bourbon and brandy. You feel the heat and tingle from the alcohol on the tip of your tongue, but the spirit doesn't burn going down, a unique and dangerous quality. There are a few tiers of Metaxa, including a seven-star for snifter sipping, but the five-star is the most common and, because of its versatility, the best to use in cocktails. Any drink made with brandy—and many made with tequila, rum, or bourbon—will be bumped up by the flavors of Metaxa. I love it in a simple sidecar. It's just like a margarita, only made with brandy and fresh lemon juice instead of tequila and lime juice. When you make a sidecar with Metaxa and garnish the drink with an orange, it becomes approximately 15 percent more interesting because of the spirit's complex flavors and aromas. It's still hard to find places that feature Metaxa in any of their drinks. So I went to Vessel (1312 Fifth Ave., 652-5222)—a bar with a drink code so strict, the bartenders don't let vodka in the door. Many of the drinks at Vessel favor the amber spirits, and the bar's marmalade sour won the contest in my test kitchen: Put two ounces of Metaxa, a half-ounce of lemon juice, a few dashes of orange bitters, an egg white, and a teaspoon of marmalade in a cocktail shaker. Shake it as hard as you can for 15 seconds to froth the egg white, or use a blender (this time with no ice!) if you don't have a shaker. The marmalade is the genius of this drink, which is creamy, zesty, warm, and light all at the same time. No need to fear and loathe the raw egg white—it donates an immoral texture. And remember, alcohol kills. info@seattleweekly.com

 
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