Raki, or Tsikoudia as it's also known on Crete, is actually the national drink of Turkey. However, it has long been the preferred social tipple of Cretans where it plays a pivotal role in oiling the wheels of hospitality, friendship, conversation, digestion, and just about every other excuse you'd care to mention. Fermented from grape must, the spirit may not be to everyone's taste (personally I struggle to shudder my way beyond one shot) but you'll be treated to it, served chilled in elegant little bottles alongside or instead of dessert, in restaurants across the island. Yamas!
A Crafty Find
Ever since wandering into the Augustiner Brau Beer gardens in Austria and ordering a stein of ale, we've been converts to craft beers and real ales. So when staying in the bucolic idyll of the Elia Traditional Hotel in Crete's mountainous north-western corner and spotting a small sign off the road pointing to 'Cretan Brewery', alehouse expectations were raised. Following the signs through unpromising, residential streets, we began to wonder if we'd end up in someone's goat shed. Instead, we arrived at one of the most contemporary, chic establishments we'd seen since leaving Chania and heading into the hills.
Cretan Brewery is Chania's first microbrewery and has been brewing since 2007. Marketing themselves as 'All of Crete in a glass', there are currently five flavours of Charma beer on offer, all of them brewed using fresh spring water from the White Mountains. After a quick tour of the facilities and browsing the small shop, we opted for a tasting on the terrace and spent a pleasant half hour in the company of some tasty ales that slipped down a whole lot easier than the raki does.