One last thing: we drop the word organoleptic in this episode, and I wanted to back up and make sure you know what we mean when we say that. Fittingly, this word has Greek origins: a fusion of the words Organon – meaning “organ” – and leptikos – meaning “disposed to take.” Put those two root words together and we get a word that refers to our sensory organs’ ability to perceive (in the case of Mastiha) flavor and aroma qualities. This word also refers to the potency of certain substances. So when Effie and I are talking about precisely the best way to extract flavor from mastic resin or the downstream effects of consuming the product, that’s where you’re going to hear that word “organoleptic” come into play.
With that, please sit back and enjoy this fascinating conversation with everyone’s favorite Greek Spirits Muse, Effie Panagopoulos.
Effie Panagopoulos initially perforated the spirits industry amidst her four-year stint at Boston College. Cocktailing at a dive bar “Mary Anne’s,” which Effie affectionately nicknamed “Scary Anne’s,” and a beer/cordial bar, she found her start. Graduating from bartender to supplier, Effie landed a gig with Bacardi in 2004 and moved to San Francisco. At the time, SF was forefront in cocktail culture. The city was full of cocktail snobbery and esoteric booze; the perfect city to get your feet wet.
In the summer of 2008, Effie was recruited by Rémy Cointreau to become a national brand ambassador for METAXA, the largest greek spirit brand in the world. METAXA brought her back to her roots in Greece, reigniting her love affair with the old country. Mykonos reintroduced Effie to the unique taste of Mastiha, a liquor derived from tree resin which can only be found in 24 villages across Greece. She recognized the flavor profile immediately from Ypovrichio, a greek dessert Effie ate as a child. Inspiration hit and she decided to bring Mastiha to the United States as the brand we know and love today, the “bartender’s olive oil,” KLEOS.
As a PDO, a protected designation of origin ingredient, Mastiha is required by law to be sourced and bottled in Greece. Through intense trial and error with issues from consistency to viscosity, Effie worked with Greek distilleries to perfect the KLEOS recipe. As the first greek female to create a liquor brand, Effie found it apropos to team up with the first greek female distiller to produce her spirit. KLEOS undergoes double distillation through two forms of Mastiha. The first round, raw resin, allows for the extraction of flavor and aroma compounds while the second round, essential oil, rectifies the spirit to ensure there is no variance. This laborious process is worth it, however, as KLEOS has been rated the highest Mastiha globally with 5+ stars from the English spirits industry writer and publisher Simon Difford, and 94 points in the Ultimate Spirits Challenge.
Effie recognized that America does not have enough of an aperitif and digestif drinking culture for KLEOS to survive on its own. The challenge, which she dominated with an incredible vigor, was to create a Mastiha good enough to drink on the rocks, but also simple enough to be used as a workhorse for the bar. KLEOS is perfectly that; everything a bartender, spirit fanatic, and cocktail enthusiast could want and more.
Drinks to Make:
Signature cocktail for KLEOS is the KLEO-PATRA JONES. The recipe is right on the bottle. Effie also riffed off this drink to make the BIG IN JAPAN – KLEOS, Shiso, and Lemon.
How to get your hands on KLEOS Mastiha:
United States – Greek Wines Delivered – Ships to Alaska, California, DC, Idaho, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Virginia, and Wyoming.
International – The Whiskey Exchange, Master of Malt, Amazon.co.uk
I’m going to go with a KLEOS Mezcal 50/50 with a pink grapefruit wedge. I’m not a loyalist when it comes to Mezcal, but I do love Del Maguey Chichicapa and my friends over at El Silencio.
If You Were a Cocktail Ingredient, What Would You Be?
Angostura bitters because it’s essential.
Cocktail with Anyone, Past or Present
Socrates in the Ancient Agora in Athens. It would be my KLEOS Mezcal 50/50, and I would want to hear him pontificate on philosophy.