Like everything else at Mount Pleasant’s Samos Taverna, the drinks are authentically, relentlessly Greek. It’s a theme that permeates the well-appointed bar, where many of the cocktails are fueled with ouzo, an anise-flavored spirit native to the Mediterranean. Often compared to sambuca, its bold flavor is an ideal base for sweet and citrus creations that would overpower a lesser liquor.
“Ouzo is more versatile than people think,” explains bartender Nicole Stevens. “But you have to be careful about balancing it out since the flavor is so strong.” The menu at Samos includes a variety of ouzo drinks, each featuring mixers—such as espresso and ginger beer—that mesh well with the distinctive liquor. Though Samos uses several brands, Stevens points out that only two are widely available on liquor store shelves: Ouzo 12 and Metaxa. “Either will work fine when mixing drinks at home.”
If you’re new to ouzo mixology, why not start with a favorite Samos cocktail, the Kali Mera? This fruity refreshment offers bursts of tangy lime and peach over the crisp, dry undertones of the ouzo. Well-suited for summertime, it falls somewhere between a colorful smoothie and a nice cold martini. But be forewarned: “kali mera” is Greek for “good day,” a wry reference to what any afternoon might become after two or three of these tasty concoctions.