Mastika or mastiha is a unique Greek spirit from the island of Chios. The drink is flavored with the resin from the
mastic tree (Pistacia Lentiscus) and is often served as a liqueur after dinner. The resin gives a pine like flavor,
that can also be very earthy. The same resin is often used in the Greek wine retsina.
There are different ways of making mastika. The most traditional way is first distilling pomace from grapes into a
high ABV spirit, similar to grappa. The resin is harvested by making small cuts into the trees. This has to be done
carefully; when you cut too deep or at the wrong place, the resin either doesn’t drip out or contains no flavor. The
people of Chios are known for treating each tree like an individual that “shouldn’t suffer from the cut”.
The resin is then dried out in the sun, so it forms crystals. These crystals are added to the distillate and the whole batch is
redistilled. This has to be done carefully, as the resin can stick to the sides of the boiler and burn, ruining the whole batch. After distillation the spirit is diluted and sugar is added, bringing the flavor of the resin more to the forefront. Other distillers produce an oil from the mastika and add this to the distillation to prevent the scorching
of the crystals.
A special version of mastika is made by fermenting the resin itself. This means the real resin flavor is partially
lost and the result is more like a honey mead than the original mastika.
Mastic running from a Chios’ mastika tree …