When I received a bottle of Metaxa for review, I must confess I had absolutely no idea what it was. A little digging, and I’ve learned a fair amount actually. Here’s a short list of the highlights:
- It is Greek.
- It is a venerable brand, having been made for about a hundred and twenty years.
- It is essentially a brandy liqueur.
- It is quite good. I could even see drinking it neat or with a single ice cube as an after dinner wind-down.
The base for Metaxa is grape wine, from greek grapes of varieties of which I’ve not heard. They distill this into a sort of brandy, age it, then mix it with muscat wine and botanicals. There are various grades of Metaxa, graded with stars. The more stars, the longer the aging of the distilled wine. There are also special reserve bottlings for even finer grades. The bottle I received is the Seven Star. They also use a different bottle shape for each grade as well, which is kinda cool.
This makes Metaxa technically a liqueur. But its flavor is much closer to a nice cognac than it is to a traditional brandy liqueur like Benedictine. It is sweeter than cocgnac, and has a muskiness that replaces some of the cleaner burn of a pure brandy. Please note that it is 80 proof, like most liquors, so the slightly softer taste is not indicative of softer punch. I think you ought to think of and use Metaxa as if it were a liquor, instead of a liqueur.
Metaxa just sponsored a Thursday Drink Night, but I was too busy losing money at the poker table to make it. This left me on my own to find ways to put this fragrant liqueur to use.
I tried it neat, to get a feel for where I was going, and as I said, the flavor is much closer to a cognac than a liqueur. Then I went looking for recipes that featured brandy that I could tweak to fit in with the Metaxa’s unique qualities.
The Metaxa website is the usual Flash extravaganza, with a more annoying than usual age check function. There is interesting info, however, on the history and manufacture of the spirit. There are also a bunch of recipes for cocktails, but none really went where I wanted to go. All seem fruit related first and foremost, and that wasn’t what I was into. Brandies mix much better with lemon than lime, and sure enough, there is lots of lemon and no lime among Metaxa’s recipes.
After browsing my books, I concocted this little variant on the Classic Cocktail, which is itself a variant of the Sidecar. I actually rather like it, and I hope you do too.
- 1.5 oz. Metaxa
- 0.75 oz. lemon juice
- 0.25 oz. Cointreau
- 0.25 oz. Luxardo maraschino liqueur
- 0.5 oz. Canton Ginger Liqueur
Shake with cracked ice, strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with a strip of lemon peel