What role does food play in your life? There are some people for whom food is just a life substance but for many of us – for me personally – food is an experience. It is a way to understand culture and see history one plate at a time. To quote James Beard, ”Food is our common ground, a universal experience”. Food is one of the best ways to bond with another human being. As you may have already noticed, I often travel for food, so crossing the ocean to eat cherries and strolls through Kiwi vineyards seemed like an appropriate way to get to know Greece.
Soon enough I boarded an overnight flight to Thessaloniki en route to join the Charming Taste of Europe*. On this trip to Europe, I got to travel with two phenomenal food writers and chefs. Being in the food capital of Greece with two people whose life’s passions are food was certainly a special experience. Our many conversations inspired me to share some recipes so at the end you will find two cocktail recipes.
Note: If you are only here for the cocktail recipes please scroll to the bottom.
The trip was sponsored by the Charming Taste of Europe, which did not review or approve the story.
Read the disclaimer about affiliate links & PR gifting here.
The Cherry on Top
This long, scenic drive through the Greek countryside is filled with fun conversation and silent lookout breaks. Out in the distance are blue ocean water, lush green fields, and impressive mountains with small villages at their foothills. Final destination: agricultural coop of Rachi Pieria (“Agios Loukas”), where the cherries are grown, sorted, and distributed around the world. The regions of Pella, Imathia, and Pieria are most important when it comes to fruit production in Greece and this cooperative has been operating since 1978 (250 members). Pieria (Region of Central Macedonia) consists of many beautiful small towns with miles of thick orchards setting them apart.
Our main stop: cherry orchard. It has been raining heavily for a few days so the ground is soft and the wet leaves are glistening in the sun, tiny raindrops rolling off the plump cherries upon touch. In the background, the one and only Mount Olympus, just barely peaking through the clouds. Neat rows of cherry trees line this hill all the way down to its neighbouring orchards, branches heavy with ripe cherries reaching for the earth. We took some time to stroll through the orchard learning about the production.
All cherries are hand-harvested and hand sorted at the nearby facility. Today a large batch of cherries were being prepared for their trip to Italy. I wondered if I could go with them, for the burrata of course. And the pasta. But I digress. Later this day we stop over at Litochoro for a traditional Greek meal with the view of Mount Olympus. You might not be able to visit the facility yourself but driving through the region of Macedonia will offer you plenty of orchard views and access to fresh fruit markets.
As food cherries are versatile. You can eat them fresh, cook them down into jam, pickle them, brine them, stuff them in with the chicken, toss them in salads, and make a countless number of desserts with them. They also make a fun cocktail ingredient. Cherry dessert recipe recommendation from travel companion Aimée Wimbush-Bourque, the author of Simple Bites: a tasty Slab Pavlova for a Crowd.
Sweet on the Inside, Fuzzy on the Outside
A different day and a different direction take us to Kavala (Kavala COOP) which includes producers from Kavala, Nestos, and Thassos (500 members). The Coop grows a range of fruits and vegetables but the main reason for our visit is kiwis. While the fruit is originally from China it traveled to Europe sometime in the 19th century and since then has become one of the primary exports for Greece. Kavala alone produced nearly 50,000 tons of kiwi 10,000 of which come from this cooperative.
Greek Kiwis are harvested by hand in the fall. It takes quite a few months for them to come to fruition so during our visit in June we got to witness their early months. Sitting on the plane en route to Greece I realized I had no idea what kiwi plants look like. For the sheer purpose of surprise, I decided not to look it up. The plants are viny. Their thick trunks reach for the sun and then wrap around the supporting beams, reaching for one another across the path. I am surprised. The wait was worth it.
These plants are gendered. For every eight female plants, there is one male and it does not produce any fruit. Much like grapes kiwis require some healthy rain and a lot of sun. Cold temperatures are highly undesirable. Once the fruits take shape they are groomed with all oddly formed fruits being plucked and returned to the earth to wither into fertilizer. When they reach ideal sugar levels the fruits are harvested and sorted by size with a 100g fruit being the ideal size.
Kiwis are best eaten raw or in desserts. They go well with yogurt and ice cream or as cheesecake toppings. This Greek Yogurt Parfait recipe from My Delish seemed like an approbate recipe to share for this particular story.
When thinking through these recipes I wanted to create something simple, something you can make at home with zero experience and minimal ingredients so you will notice there are similarities in them. Both drinks are built on a classic Sour recipe and should be easy to execute.
Quick note: The double straining allows for the fruit chunks to not drop into the drink creating a cleaner cocktail.
• Shaker tin, if you don’t have one use a 1L mason jar
• Muddler, use a fork if you don’t have one
• Jigger, replace with a 1oz shot glass or 1-2oz measuring spoons
• Hawthorn strainer (double strain through the mesh if you don’t have it)
• Mesh strainer, can be found at most kitchen or dollar stores
• Kiwi, peeled and chopped
• 1/3oz Kiwi simple syrup (see recipe below)
• 0.75oz Fresh squeezed lemon juice
• 1.5oz Tanqueray gin
• 1.5oz Sparkling wine, my go-to for cocktails is Chateau de Montgueret Cremant de Loire Brut, $26.05 at the LCBO
• Kiwi slice to garnish
• Champagne glass
1. Toss the kiwi in the shaker tin and muddle kiwi with simple syrup and lemon juice.
2. Add the gin and ice and shake until the tin is sufficiently cold.
3. Pop it open and add the sparkling wine, swirl it around a bit to integrate.
4. Hold the mesh strainer over the glass and Hawthorne strainer over the tin and strain the liquid into the champagne glass.
5. Add the kiwi slice for garnish and enjoy!
Bourbon Cherry Highball
• 10-12 Petted cherries
• 0.75oz Fresh squeezed lemon juice
• 0.75oz Cherry simple syrup (see recipe below)
• 2oz Bulleit Bourbon
• Soda water
• Highball glass (tall and thin, example here)
1. Muddle the cherries in the shaker tin with simple syrup and lemon juice.
2. Add the bourbon and ice and shake until the tin is sufficiently cold.
3. Add fresh ice into the glass, all the way to the top with an extra cube.
4. Hold the mesh strainer over the glass, Hawthorne strainer over the tin, and strain the liquid over the ice, add more ice if needed.
5. Add a reusable straw and enjoy!
As the name would suggest it is very simple to make. The basis of a simple syrup is one part sugar and one part water (ie. 1 cup sugar + 1 cup water). Heat gently bringing to a near boil and simmer for a few minutes allowing the sugar to melt. Fruit allows us to flavour the sirup creating additional layers of taste in the cocktail. The fruit (2 chopped kiwis, 10-16 pitted cherries) is added from the start. Stir occasionally, bring to a near boil, and turn the heat down to a simmer. With the fruit allow the liquid to simmer for 30-40 minutes – the longer it simmers the more flavourful the syrup will be.
Footnote * The Charming Taste of Europe is a three-year campaign promoted by the Vini d’ Abruzzo consortium and the Union of Sweet Bordeaux Wines, along with fruit producers in Greece’s Union of Agricultural Cooperatives of Kavala (Kavala COOP) and Agricultural Cooperative of Rachi Pieria (“Agios Loukas”), co-financed by the European Union. This campaign focuses on raising awareness of these high-quality products in the American market.
In the gear bag: In the gear bag: Fujifilm* X-T100 with a Fuji XF50mmF2 R WR and XF 23mm f/2 R WR lenses and a DJI* Mavic Mini drone. To see the trip on Instagram scroll through #xoGreece23 and find a “Greece 🇬🇷” highlight on my feed @katerryna.