Metaxa Sour

February 15, 2011
By Holly Jennings

This Greek-inspired cocktail, with delicate citrus flavors and a silky, smooth texture, was created by my friend Miguel Aranda, a professional mixologist and contributor to the book Asian Cocktails. Miguel likes using Greek brandy, known as Metaxa, in cocktails because it has enough heat to hold its own against other cocktail ingredients, yet it is smooth, very smooth. A 7-star Metaxa is actually smoother than many brandies, but then, it’s not a true brandy. It can be more correctly thought of as a brandy liqueur because it is sweetened with Muscat wine and flavored with botanicals. It is aged in limousine oak barrels for typically three, five, or seven years, though sometimes longer. The stars on the bottle signify the number of years the brandy has been aged, and the greater number of stars, the smoother the Metaxa will be.

I made this cocktail last week for Georgia and Judy at DCCC’s Greek-themed potluck. I’ve stirred and shaken lots of cocktails, but, before making a Metaxa Sour, had never flamed an orange peel. It definitely adds a new level to cocktail showmanship, especially in the setting of a dimly lit room.

For instructions on how to flame an orange peel, given by a calm, cool, and collected professional, you can watch this clip recommended by Miguel, or you can watch me fumble through it in my kitchen video, below. (My Internet connection is maddeningly slow—a problem of rural living—so in the video, Georgia reads instructions for flaming an orange peel from the book The Craft of the Cocktail by Dale Degroff.) I suggest watching the first video of me making the cocktail for guidance, and then watch the “Ins and Outtakes of Making a Metaxa Sour” to give yourself some cocktail shaking and flaming confidence, knowing that if you don’t get it right the first time, you can try again, and again (like I did).

The orange peel adds more than visual effect. It adds a subtle touch of flavor and aroma. If you don’t like playing with matches, then twist the peel, rind-side-down, over the cocktail and rub it on the rim before placing it in the drink. (I forgot to rub the rim of the cocktail glass with the orange peel in the video, but should have done. I also forgot to add the orange peel garnish to the cocktail when photographing it! Please don’t do as I did.)

Metaxa Sour

Makes one 4½-ounce cocktail

2 ounces 7-star Metaxa
¾ ounce fresh squeezed orange juice
¼ ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice (see note)
¼ ounce 2:1 simple syrup (2 parts sugar heated in 1 part water until melted)
1 egg white
Dash of orange bitters
Flamed orange peel, for flavor and garnish

In an iced shaker, add the Metaxa, orange juice, lemon juice, simple syrup, egg white, and bitters. Shake vigorously for 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the flamed orange peel.

Note: In Miguel’s version of this recipe, he uses ½ ounce of “sweet and sour mix,” which is comprised of equal parts fresh squeezed lemon juice and 2:1 simple syrup. For simplicity, I state this ingredient in the recipe as ¼ ounce lemon juice and ¼ ounce simple syrup. If you are entertaining, and making several Metaxa Sours, making a batch of sweet and sour mix will be more efficient. Simply replace the lemon juice and simple syrup with ½ ounce of sweet and sour mix. Note that in the video, the batch of sweet and sour mix I’ve made has a light tan color. This is because I used unrefined cane sugar, which is okay when making a cocktail with a dark-colored base liquor. If making cocktails with a clear liquor—vodka or gin, for example—you will want to make simple syrup with white, granulated sugar.