As the Beast blows in from the East, this Metaxa 12 Stars from Waitrose gives me a warm glow
It’s late February in London. And as I write these words, a rapidly swelling volume of snow cascades through the left side of my peripheral vision. Out of the office window, the winter is clamouring for my attention; insisting it’s not going out without a fight. I’m worried I might not make it home tonight, but the knowledge that I have two thirds of a bottle of Metaxa 12 Stars waiting for me should keep me going later, as I trudge through the blizzard they’re calling “the Beast from the East”…
The Greek spirit Metaxa is a blend of brandy and wine, featuring Savatiano, Black Corinth and Sultana grape varieties, plus Muscat wine from the islands of Samos and Lemnos and a secret blend of Mediterranean herb and floral extracts. It’s been around since the late 19th century and comes in nine major categories — hence the star rating. As you might imagine, the stars refer to the amount of time each variety has been aged, in French Limousin oak barrels (the same oak used for Cognac).
Three stars is the entry-level category, and is the stuff you’ll likely be offered to wash down your souvlaki and chips in a Corfu tourist restaurant. The three-star makes a serviceable digestif, but this pricier Metaxa 12 Stars variety is a different beast altogether. Imagine the difference between a blended Scotch from the Happy Shopper and a 15-year-old single malt and you’ll get the idea.
How To Drink Metaxa
If you’re wondering how to drink Metaxa 12 Stars, I can recommend the following three official recommendations.
- Straight up in a short glass.
- In a whisky glass with one large chunk of ice.
- In a long glass over ice, with cucumber, ginger ale and a twist of orange peel or lime zest (see picture above).
I tried all three, plus I also experimented with lemon instead of lime zest in the cocktail option. The former two work beautifully as winter warmers and are a neat alternative to whisky or brandy as a fireside treat or to cut through a heavy mea.
Conversely, the cocktail option is extremely refreshing and would suit a summer’s evening in the garden or make a zesty aperitif. With the cucumber, it’s comparable to a stronger, more complex (and less sickly sweet) version of Pimm’s. Like red wine, I find brandy or brandy-based drinks can make me sleepy if drunk straight. The sugar in the ginger ale helps to counteract that effect, so a Metaxa cocktail would also make a good going-out drink.
The blurb on the Waitrose website promises, among other things, “a secret bouquet of May roses”. Hmm. I’m not sure I could tell the difference between May roses and June ones. Maybe that’s why it’s a secret. But what I did experience was equally delicious: honey, hazlenut, nougat and orange, tied together in a rich and complex package that, at 40% volume, also kicks like a mule. I’m converted.
Metaxa’s recent ad campaign features the ice-cool explorer Mike Horn urging us: “don’t drink it, explore it”. Well, I’ve explored it alright. But I fully intend to drink it too — if I ever make it home through this raging blizzard.
5 NINJA STARS
Waitrose sells Metaxa 12 Stars for £30 (on offer for £25 at the time of writing) at www.waitrose.com