This is TD’s view of the Erechtheum’s “Porch of Maidens,” an ancient Greek temple on the north side of the Acropolis in Athens. It was built from in the early 5th Century B.C. and dedicated to the Greek gods Athena and Posidion. The temple was named for Erichthonis, a Greek hero, an early ruler of Athens mentioned in Homer’s Iliad. His inception rivals the credibility of the birth of Jesus since he was what they call autochthonous, born of the earth, with the technical details left to the curious. His early days resulted in havoc and death for three entrusted sisters who ended up jumping off the Acropolis to their deaths. Such a Greek tragedy.
The iconic maiden columns are a welcomed substitute to the three classic phallic columns of Greece: the Iconic, the Doric, and the Corinthian. These columns serve the same function—support for the structure. One art historian, Jenny Liang, says: “The Porch of Maidens expresses a sense of stability as well as a sense of relaxed grace and effortless support.” And so it seems.
Since these are copies of the originals, TD added a bottle of Mastiha, the in-the-know drink of the Greeks today, for contemporary support—our kind. One of the original columns is in the British Museum in London, the other five are in the Arcropolis Museum in Athens. The maidens, or Caryatids, were said to be slaves from the ancient town of Karyai. All six are different and a lot of long hair was used to strengthen the weakest part of the sculptures, the neck. However, the differences are balanced with some symmetry—the three maidens on the right stand on their left foot, the three on the left stand on their right foot. Who knew?
If you are traveling in Greece this summer, be in the know. Ozuo, the anise-flavored aperitif, is for tourists. Mastiha is what the locals drink a white spirit distilled from the gum of the mastic tree (think chewing gum) and sweetened with sugar. Its flavor is softer than the brash anise twang of ouzo. While some may taste a hint of aniseed, spearmint is the dominate flavor.
Not far from the Pantheon is one of the best bars in Athens, The Gin Joint, with over 70 gin-based cocktails.
Mastiha-based drinks figure highly in their offerings. Two of Gin Joint’s signature cocktails are the Fig Sour (mastiha, house-made fig marmalade, lemon and brown sugar syrup) and the Rosemary (mastiha, Aperol, limejuice, ginger syrup and apricot-and-rosemary puree).
While you can always pick up a bottle of mastiha in Athens to bring home as a souvenir, most likely you can find a bottle closer to home: It’s sold under the Skinos brand name in North America and Europe.
Recipe for the Fig Sour:
This cocktail is a classic Sour. It combines a base spirit with tart citrus and a sweetener to balance things out. Here, the Mediterranean’s own mastiha is the key spirit. Brown sugar syrup and fig marmalade add rich complexity to the drink.
- 6 oz. Skinos Mastiha
- 2 oz. fresh lemon juice
- 1.5 oz. homemade brown sugar syrup
- 1 barspoon homemade fig marmalade
- Your favorite cocktail glass
- Combine all ingredients with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a tumbler over crushed ice, or strain and serve up in a chilled glass.
Yasas! (Cheers or Sláinte in Greek)