CRETE ISLAND - WHAT TO DRINK
The local hard drink is called Raki or `tsikoudia` and is distilled from what is left over from pressing grapes so in fact it is the same as the Italian grappa. You`ll see old men gathered at kafeneions drinking Raki from small shot glasses. It is usually served in small shapely bottles, containing about 4-6 shots each, although don`t think they measure it out! It`s freely available and often given as a complimentary drink before, after and/or during your meal! It is a strong, pretty clean alcohol, meaning that you`ll get drunk on it really quickly but will feel halfway human the next day. It is a little difficult to buy because it is mainly home-produced. The bottled stuff called `raki` or Cretan Raki in the supermarkets is generally awful and no Cretan would touch it. It is also expensive compared to the 3 or 4 Euro per liter that you would pay elsewhere. Here again the same rule might apply as when buying olive oil: if you come across something that you like, ask very nicely if you could buy a bottle of it. A rare variation of it is called `mournoraki` and is distilled from mulberries. It is very strong but quite nice and almost impossible to buy.
Ouzo is NOT at all a Cretan drink but of course you can find it everywhere. It is generally drunk diluted with water but some prefer to drink it pure.
Beer is definitely not a Cretan drink but has become popular with the locals as well. You can get beer everywhere. The main Greek (or manufactured in Greece under license) brands are Amstel, Heineken, Alfa and Mythos. All are OK, and really a matter of taste. You can also buy imported beers but they are more expensive.
Don`t make the faux-pas of calling this a Turkish coffee, even though it is just the same stuff! Contrary to belief, Greek coffee does not have to be a very sweet coffee, as it is made to taste. Greek coffee is a generic name. The same gentlemen you`ll see sitting in the kafeneions drinking Raki in the early to late evening, will be sitting there in the morning drinking Greek Coffee. It is made from grounds heated up on a hot plate until frothy. The sugar is added at the start of the process, your order will indicate how sweet you want it: `sketo` means without sugar, `metrio` is medium sweet and `glyko` is sweet (very). When it`s ready you get a small cup of dark brown liquid. Make sure to wait and let it settle, because the grounds are in the cup. Again, if you drink down to the bottom you`ll get a mouthful of coffee grounds. Everyone gets a glass of water with their coffee in Crete.
On Crete, the common name for Mountain Tea is malotira, but many English speakers might know it as `Shepherd`s Tea,` because Greek shepherds would use the plants to make a brewed tea while tending their flocks high in the hills. Greek Mountain Tea is very popular in Crete, and is enjoyed all year round, but especially in the winter months. Many villagers will tell you of its almost miraculous properties. It is said to have a positive effect on most common ailments but it is especially used for colds, breathing problems, digestion, bolstering the immune system, calming mild anxiety, and as an anti-oxidant. It can also help to reduce fevers. You can get the Tea in the markets and almost most grocery stores. Even pharmacies sell it!
You can buy bottled water (in plastic bottles only, no glass here and certainly nothing returnable) but why do so when the tap water is drinkable almost everywhere. Tap water used to taste great but nowadays, it is starting to taste like any city tap water. But it is certainly no health hazard. You can also ask for tap water in a carafe when eating out. There is no compulsion to get bottled water with your meal.
Fresh juice is not cheap which is surprising when you think how many oranges there are (especially in the winter) but very tasty.