Every summer the residents of the Mastic villages of Chios, known as Mastichiades, carve the branches of their trees from the Schinias region with an iron tool. What drops from these lesions is known as Mastic.
This process has been repeated in the south of Chios for the last 2500 years. But, what is Mastic?
What is Mastic?
Mastic is the resin from the Schinias region tree, a member of the tree family which also includes Pistachio and Terebinth trees. Resin is the hard crystal-shaped tree drops from various Filion trees. The most well-known resin is frankincense and myrrh, gifts the three wise men gave to humanity, along with gold. This indicates their great worth and value.
People in antiquity recognized these resins’ worth and used them in the making of balsams, medicines, embalming, in disinfecting and in incense burning.
Though the Schinias trees can be found throughout the Mediterranean, it is only in the south of Chios that Mastic is produced.
This is attributed to the region’s microclimate, of the selective and systematic cultivation which led to a new type of Schinias tree which is more durable and productive. It is also due to Chios’ commercial resourcefulness from ancient times when Mastic became identified with the island.
History Of Mastic
From the 5th century BC, when the first reference of it is made in Orpheus’ Hymns, Mastic travelled to all of the Mediterranean. It was the first gum in ancient Greece and used in Roman orgiastic feasts.
It made its way into Alexandrian and Arabic doctors’ recipes, to Franciscan monks’ monasteries, to English noblemen’s drinks, to Christian and Muslim incense rituals, to Andalusian cooks’ recipes, to Ottoman sultans’ harems, to spoons of the Greek coffee shops, Kafeneion, and is now found in the finest bars worldwide.
One of the greatest legends surrounding Mastic is how Christopher Columbus, knowing full well the value of it, presented a Mastic tree, as well as rare spices and exotic fruits, as part of his findings in Cuba, to guarantee continued funding for his trip. The Genoese Columbus knew of the Schinias trees well and had visited Chios, which was under the governance of Genoa at the time. With this ploy, he attempted to prove that his journey, fruitless until then, was actually worthwhile.
The symbolic daughter and noblewoman of Chios, named Mastic by the locals, was first found on distilleries from the early 18th century. Before that there were numerous recipes in which mastic oil was mixed with balsam or spices for therapeutic and even decorative purposes.
The great difference in distilling has been made by the Skinos Company, turning the mastic liqueur into a recognized Mediterranean ingredient and putting Mastic in the finest bars of Europe and the world. With clever and persistent marketing, as well as an exceptional product, Skinos has substantially opened Mastic to the international market and has made it a recognized brand since 2010.
The next stage comes from the Plomariou distillery in Mitilini. There, at a privately owned distillery, a new mastic extract is produced from bronze distillers and 100% Chios mastic. The creation of M Dry Mastiha, which departs from the well-established liqueurs, is where the dry spirit category in Greece begins.
What Cocktails Can I Make With Mastic Liqueur?
50ml Mastiha dry
120 Prosecco wine
50ml Mastiha dry
25ml Woodford Reserve Bourbon chamomile infused
25ml pineapple unsweetened
12.5 ml cinnamon syrup
2 dashes angostura
Sweet and sour
50ml Mastiha dry
25 ml lime
25ml honey syrup
4 pieces green apple muddle in the shaker
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Written and edited by:
Yannis Petros Petris (Bartender – Athens, Greece)
Dionysis Polatos (Bartender – Athens, Greece)
John Stavroulakis (Bartender – Athens, Greece)
Have we come across this Liqueur before? Know of any other cocktails it would work perfectly in?