Rakomelo: Ode to the Ultimate Christmas Spirit
Winter time is a special time. Winter means festivities and parties and lots of excuses to meet and be with family and friends. It follows that during such merry times, maximum efforts to please and be pleased are amplified. During Christmas these acts of love translate to tons of food and drink. Specially made with love and ingredients that will fill you with joy and happy, cozy feelings.
Every country seems to have one of these drinks. In Europe, they are as old as the tradition of Christmas markets. In Germany and Austria the ever popular Gluwein, or mulled wine has been a staple for centuries. The Scandinavians have their version of it called Glogg. Both are red wine based with infusions of cinnamon, ginger and orange. In America, eggnog is the king, while in South America different variations of fruit punch get all the attention.
In Greece, as with almost everything culinary, the Cretans get the cookie (although the history of it can be traced back to the 12th century, the origins remain fuzzy, with Crete, some Aegean islands and the Peloponnese all vying for the right to claim it as). And that’s because they’ve ingeniously paired raki (or tsipouro) with honey, cinnamon, rose cloves and orange peels to create this hands down screamer of a drink. Served hot on small carafe pitchers and enjoyed in small shot glasses (no, not to be downed in one go you heathens) this is the ultimate conviviality lubricant. If Greeks had a word for what Danes call ‘Hygge’, we’re pretty sure it would involve a hefty dose of rakomelo somewhere in there. We’re not exactly sure why it hasn’t turned this coffee loving nation into rakomelo addicted drunkards, but we won’t question it.
As a side note, one is more than encouraged to try rakomelo’s little sister, ‘oinomelo’. That’s wine and honey for you, or some variation of northern European gluwein (funnily enough, there is growing speculation amongst historians that the tradition of mulled wine started in ancient Greece as a way to salvage wine gone bad).
Rakomelo has become an institution in Greece. Its not about to surpass ouzo just yet, but keep in mind that rakomelo and oinomelo can both be served cold, too. And that is a recipe for joy right there. Ya mas!