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Drinking in Greece

Drinking in Greece is a big social event on the Greek Islands especially when there is a national holiday or traditional celebration like a name day. Beer, local wine and spirits are the order of the day with ouzo and retsina being the favoured local tipples. However, whilst what seems like masses of alcohol may be consumed, drunkenness in public is extremely rare and certainly not tolerated. There is also no legal age for drinking in Greece at a private home, so don’t be surprised to see ten year olds slurping the odd mouthful of wine – no-one goes mad and this is the way children learn to drink in moderation.

Drinking in Greece Legally

To buy alcohol from any retail outlet you must be 17 years of age and you may be asked for ID. Many nightclubs now have signs stating that they will not serve any drink to anyone under 16 unless they are accompanied by a parent or guardian. Drinking and driving laws have become much stricter of late and are set to become even more stringent – check out our article on drinking and driving in our legal section.


Greece produces several brands of beer with Mythos Beer being the most popular. It costs between 3 - 5 Euros in a bar and in some outlets it is cheaper. Still the most popular beers are the international brands Amstel and Heineken, which are produced and bottled on the mainland. Amstel is called the red beer and Heineken the green and they are ordered in this way. Both brands come in large bottles and are generally shared amongst everyone at the table – bear this in mind if you are boozing with a lot of Greeks as you will be expected to share.


Renowned as one of the oldest producers of wine in the world with a history dating back 6,500 years, Greece produces some excellent quality wines. Wine is very popular on the islands particularly on those like Santorini, which have a wealth of local wineries. Most restaurants also sell a wide variety of international wines, but in a country that gave birth to Dionysus the god of wine it would be stupid not to taste the local blends. When dining, Greeks tend to order a karaf of wine, which is shared by everyone at the table. Bottles of wine can be purchased at supermarkets and are reasonable costing around 4 to 8 Euros for a 75 ml bottle. Some of the most popular island wines are Vinsanto, Santorini and Robola.


Whilst retsina is a white (or sometimes rose) wine with a distinct bouquet, it warrants its own mention as one of the most favoured drinks in Greece. It has been made for over 2,000 years and is an acquired taste made from grapes matured in barrels sealed with pine resin, which give retsina its unique taste and smell. Legend has it that retsina originates from the days when the Roman’s invaded Greece. They stole all of the Greek wines and in revenge the local Greeks used pine resin to seal their barrels. They believed that the strong taste would also deter the plundering Romans. Today the resin flavour is manufactured and there is no need to seal the barrels in this way. Euboea is the Greek Island, which produces the best retsina.



The perfect accompaniment to seafood, ouzo is the other national tipple. It is an aniseed flavoured, strong liquor, which is drunk from small glasses either neat, with water or on the rocks, although many young Greeks are drinking it with coca cola now.  Lesbos claims to be the place where ouzo was first made with one of the biggest producers, Varvayanis, is located in Plomari in the southeast of Lesbos. Ouzo is real rocket fuel and if you are not used to drinking it then be prepared for some serious hangovers. The most popular brands sold worldwide are Metaxa and Ouzo "12" although it is worth trying some of the other local brands too. Many café-like ouzeries now exist selling ouzo with traditional Greek mezzos like salad, octopus, calamari and sardines. This is a drink, which is sipped slowly rather than downed in one.

Homemade Brews

Distilling alcohol at home is actually illegal throughout Greece, yet many islanders seem to brew their own lethal potions. Cretan islanders produce some wicked liquor known as Raki or Tsipouro, which is a legacy from the days of the Ottoman conquest. They both have similar tastes and are made from fruit, usually gapes. If you visit a Greek home where one of these home made liquors are made you will be encouraged to try a shot. Compliment your host on his excellent liquor (even if you feel like your head has been blown off and your mouth is like fire) but be wary about taking more than one glass as drunkenness creeps up on you very quickly and the hangover produced is lethal.
If you do find yourself suffering after a night drinking in Greece either at your neighbours or a taverna get plenty of fresh island air the next day – this is the Greek hangover remedy and it is sure to work.