It’s a warm summer’s evening in Athens, the sun is setting and the horizon is dominated by the iconic Parthenon. We’re viewing it from an elegant rooftop terrace while we enjoy a particularly delicious cocktail created and served by Vasilis Kyritsis from one of our very favourite bars in the world, The Clumsies. As we sip we’re deep in conversation with Guillaume Néry, a world record holder for free diving (above). Not our average evening by any stretch of the imagination.
It’s all part of a unique calloboration from Metaxa. The name alone is synonymous with Greece, conjuring up images of sun-filled holidays and long easy evenings, but this is Metaxa in a whole new light.
Created back in 1888 by Greek merchant Spyros Metaxas, it was originally described as a type of cognac, then a few years later as a brandy, before finally becoming comfortable in its own skin. Today it is described simply and confidently as The Original Greek Spirit.
Over the years it’s grown and been reimagined in various expressions. Particularly during the last 25 years it’s been the responsibility of Constantinos Raptis, the Metaxa Master (this is his unique title rather than Master Blender or Master Distiller). It’s his Metaxa 12 Stars though that is the one cocktail lovers should be looking out for.
Metaxa 12 Stars is delicious on its own, or over ice with a twist of orange (as recommended to us by Constantinos himself) but it really comes into its own in mixed drinks. It’s substantial enough to form a strong base for cocktails and best of all, it delivers appealing layers of complexity that give the creative bartender unlimited inspiration. Which brings us neatly back to that particularly lovely cocktail courtesy of The Clumsies, the sunny rooftop terrace and, of course, the world record free diver.
So how, or more importantly why, does anyone actually become a free diver? Free diving, in case you didn’t know, is the ability to dive deep down into the sea, going as far as possible with absolutely no breathing equipment.
“When I was a little boy”, Guillaume told us, “my friends and I used to play a game where we would see who could hold their breath for the longest. I always wanted to be the best so I started to practice really seriously and started to become pretty good at it. Then one day I saw a film about free diving and suddenly I knew that was what I wanted to do. It’s actually something very spiritual to be so far down beneath the surface of the sea and totally in touch with your natural surroundings.”
There is an inevitable question though. Surely athletes of such a calibre don’t touch alcohol?
“That’s what everyone thinks. The truth is that I am like anyone else and I need to relax.” Naturally then when he does choose to relax the drink in question has to be particularly special. Step forward Vasilis Kyritsis of The Clumsies.
“I wanted to create something that uniquely reflected what Guillaume does” says Vasilis as prepares the drink in question. “He told me that lemon juice was especially important as he drinks a lot of it before diving so that was important to my inspiration. I also wanted to visually capture the experience of the deep dive, so I built the drink in the glass, progressing from a light colour at the top of the cocktail to a darker note at the bottom of the glass to represent the sea.”
The resulting Deep Dive is something that looks extremely elegant, reflects the story beautifully and is quite simply a truly delicious drink. Not to mention a creation which is very fitting for a world champion. It’s also actually one of three drinks in a series of Metaxa 12 Stars creations from Vasilis. In addition, he’s also created a drink for world explorer Mike Horn and cross continent cyclist Laura Bingham. Together they form an extraordinary new journey for Metaxa 12 Stars.
Given its complexity Metaxa 12 Stars is not simply to be drunk but rather to be explored, hence the inspiration of working with the three intrepid and international explorers.
It’s not every day we get to hang out with a world record holder, especially such an extraordinary one as Guillaume. “My life is devoted to exploring unknown depths,” he told us.
We can’t see ourselves trying free diving any time soon, but we’re more than happy to explore future Metaxa 12 Stars cocktails.
Deep Dive for Guillaume Néry
50ml METAXA 12 STARS
1 dash Celery Bitters
Top up with Mediterranean Tonic
10ml fresh lemon juice
15ml elderflower liqueur
Build all ingredients in a Collins glass over crushed ice. Garnish with a twist of lemon and slices of cucumber.
Smooth Ride for Laura Bingham
50ml METAXA 12 STARS
25ml fresh lemon juice
10ml salted caramel*
5ml Crème de Mûre
15ml passion fruit purée
Top up with Champagne
Stir ingredients in an Old Fashioned glass and top with Champagne. Garnish with mint and a wedge of lime.
Pole2Pole for Mike Horn
45ml METAXA 12 STARS
20ml Dry Vermouth
5ml Peach Liqueur
3 dashes Orange Bitters
Shake ingredients over ice and strain into a Cognac glass. Garnish with orange peel and a dusting of cinnamon.
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Look out for Metaxa 12 in all good cocktail bars.