Wary of bringing gifts to Greeks....
March 21, 2007 11:54 PM   Subscribe

What booze to give the Greek relatives?

I'm going to Greece next week for an extended stay, during which I'll be meeting some family members I haven't seen in years. I'd like to bring them a gift. I was thinking chocolates for the children, but I'm drawing a blank on gifts for the adults. Wine or liquor sound fairly safe, but I have no idea what Greeks consider "good" alcohol. Glenfiddich? Stolichnaya? I'm not a big drinker, so it's hard for me to just pick something out of the vast array of alcoholic beverages out there. If anyone has any recommendations for what might be good wine or liquor to bring, or any other suggestions for non-alcoholic gifts, I'd greatly appreciate your advice.
posted by longdaysjourney to Food & Drink (17 answers total)
Best answer: In my experience, when not enjoying their own (Greek) booze, the Greeks enjoy French booze. A good bottle of cabernet sauvignon, or maybe even better, a nice bottle of champagne. It's sort of hard for me to make more specific recommendations without knowing where you're shopping (and your budget), but any of the big champagne brands would probably fit the bill (Moët, Heidelberg, ...). Something else French you might consider is a good bottle of French brandy, considering its affinity with the palate of one of the Greek national drinks, Metaxa (i.e. also a sort of brandy).

Now that I think about the wine angle abit more, if you're in the States, and can get your hands on some top-notch Californian hootch, that might be a neat way to go. Again, in my experience (as with my ol' Greek baba and relatives), the Greeks enjoy rich and heavy red wines (hence the cabernet sauvignon recommendation above, or something similar). These guys make the best californian wine (as well as one of the best wines) that I've ever had the pleasure of tasting, though it's admittedly quite pricey. On the other hand, the Greeks also enjoy excruciatingly sweet desserts, so a sweet (white) dessert wine like a Sauternes would also be a natural and well-appreciated choice on your part. Good luck, 'cause they're a fickle bunch (even though they won't let you see it).
posted by rudster at 12:46 AM on March 22, 2007

(Sorry, please disregard the bolding, I don't know how I did that.)
posted by rudster at 12:49 AM on March 22, 2007

I find individual tastes usually trump national predilections, but when gift-giving bringing something good from where you are goes down well, the more local-specific or direct-from-producer the better. Anything like that from round your way?
posted by Abiezer at 2:01 AM on March 22, 2007

Ouzo is the traditional Greek booze...
posted by jozxyqk at 3:36 AM on March 22, 2007

Ouzo is the traditional Greek booze...

Yes, but that's rather coals-to-Newcastle, isn't it?

I'd second the champagne suggestion.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:35 AM on March 22, 2007

Response by poster: More details:

I'm in the U.S., Northern Virginia. As much as I usually like to "buy local", I'd rather stick with producers that have a global, or, in this case, Greek, reputation for being very, very good. The kind of drink that most people would be impressed at receiving (in the sense that it shows that they're highly valued by the giver. And yeah, I realize I'm shopping by nameplate here. I don't know what their particular preferences are, so I have to fall back on what people in Greece generally think is good booze.)

I can go up to the $150s (U.S.).

I'm not going to give them anything from Greece. I'd like to stick with something from Europe though. Extra points if it's from Germany since my mom's German and it'd be nice to represent that part of my heritage. (Eiswein maybe? But which?)

Thanks for the recs so far everyone. Dessert wine sounds like a good way to go, and I'll be checking out ratings for French brandy (never had any, so please feel free to recommend specific producers if you'd like).
posted by longdaysjourney at 5:12 AM on March 22, 2007

If you are not flying direct from the US to Greece, you'll need to ensure that you will be allowed to carry alcohol in transit.

There have been problems for passengers changing planes in the UK where their duty-free has been confiscated.
posted by essexjan at 5:17 AM on March 22, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the warning, essexjan. I'm carrying styrofoam wine shippers in my luggage as I'll be bringing back Greek wine as gifts for officemates. I'm planning to use the shippers to transport the alcohol for the relatives.
posted by longdaysjourney at 5:25 AM on March 22, 2007

Best answer: For a good bottle of French brandy, ‘XO’ cognacs are very classy (if expensive) drinks. It looks like you could get a bottle of Courvoisier XO Imperiale for a smidgeon less than your $150.
posted by misteraitch at 7:00 AM on March 22, 2007

Metaxa 5 star (brandy) has the place of honor in numrous Greek home liquor cabinets I've seen.
posted by sacre_bleu at 7:29 AM on March 22, 2007

Numerous. (sigh)
posted by sacre_bleu at 7:30 AM on March 22, 2007

I'd still go with American. Maybe a big brand name bourbon?
posted by Nelson at 8:58 AM on March 22, 2007

If you're talking about tasty desert wines, how about a fruit wine? I remember trying a blackberry wine one time that was really amazing.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:24 AM on March 22, 2007

Best answer: I've gotta second/third/fourth the French brandy/Cognac. My feeling too is that it'd be seen as a classy gift by most Greeks.

If you go with another drink I'd stick with sweeter stuff; the archetypical Greek national hooches (Ouzo, Metaxa) tend to be more suited for sipping than pounding. Also consider what the booze comes in - a classy or fancy bottle is often displayed in a place of honor (though that may be more of a Greek-American than Greek-Greek thing - I dunno.)

I can't help too much with wine but be forewarned that the traditional Greek taste in wine can be a bit, er, idiosyncratic. Sweeter here is probably better, too.

Also, a bit depends on your relatives. Greece has become increasingly Westernized over the past several decades, and many Greeks, especially educated/professional/bourgeois types, have adopted more European tastes as a mark of sophistication. Cognac would cover that possibility too.

Hellenes represent! (Opa!)
posted by Opposite George at 12:19 PM on March 22, 2007

Why not a bottle of something that is considered good and expensive here? Research things that aren't easily available to them, that'll be more special than something they could have very easily have gotten for themselves if they wanted.
posted by Mijo Bijo at 1:26 PM on March 22, 2007

Best answer: A day late and a dollar short. Sorry about that.

This is how I look at things. You're much better off not buying anything greek. Forget the ouzo, forget the metaxa, forget the retsina. Oh, they'll be thankful that you bought them a present, but behind you're back they'll be like, what is this guy thinking, buying us a greek bottle of alcohol. and they'll be right.

as for what kind of bottle of alcohol you should buy for a greek family, well honestly a lot of has to do with class - i know, sounds like im being insensitive - but in greece i think class/status is a good way to generalize about peoples drinking habits. for example, if you are more modest, you might sip on the local retsina. if you are nouveau riche in athens, you might go for a bottle of greek cabernet like hatzimichalis. all in all, i prefer the former. but as mentioned previously, westernization has definitely had its effects on greeks.

something that the greeks probably picked up from the french (and is much more prevalent than it is here) is that most families - at least the way i remember it - most families have a full bar at home. this works in you favor.

my recommendation is that you buy a bottle that they can possibly (although not necessarily) open and treat everybody right then and there, and that they can save for another day when you or somebody else comes by - and they can serve them a nice, fancy drink.

i would completely avoid the wine (including port wines - its totally uncommon there). whiskey - great. cognac - great. i second the courvoisier. the bottle looking good and sturdy will be just about as important as the alcohol. its a gift, after all.

hope that helps,
posted by phaedon at 4:35 PM on March 22, 2007

I third the courvoisier. My Greek relatives love the French cognac and the Greek-Americans are always all about top shelf liquours.
posted by wildeepdotorg at 8:16 PM on March 22, 2007

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