A new savory gin has come to America featuring the flavors of Greece.
Stray Dog Wild Gin combines nine different herbs and flavors that grow wild in Greece. It comes from New York-based Johnny Livanos from the Livanos Restaurant Group family.
“I wanted to find a way that would combine a Greek tradition in distilling and Greek flavor, but in something new,” Livanos says.
His is the first Greek gin to hit the American market and he thinks it will do well given the popularity of Greek and Mediterranean cuisine.
Stray Dog Wild Gin was an inspiration born out of a hike in Crete.
They were drinking Tsipouro when Livanos passed a bush of wild herbs. He picked some of the herbs and put them in his glass, then sampled the drink an hour later. It was delicious.
Livanos had a Eureka moment.
“Greece is full of herbs, full of amazing botanicals. We make Ouzo, a lot of great products but we don’t make gin. Why not?” he asked himself.
This unique gin took over three years to develop. It contains wild sage, rosemary, fennel seed, cardamom, coriander and bay leaves. Other Greek botanicals like mastiha, lemon, orange, and juniper complete the blend.
“Our goal was to highlight Greek flavor, Greek cooking, something I grew up with,” he says.
Think Greek lamb at Easter.
They found a simple combination that offers the unique Greek flavor but still blends well with the gin.
Livanos worked with Greek distiller Dimitris Melissanidis on the recipe. Today, Stray Dog Wild Gin is distilled at Melissanidis’ distillery in Aridea, Greece, in the northern mountains.
Livanos wanted a distiller experienced with traditional liquors but also was comfortable making gin. Dimitris, part of a third generation of Greek distillers, was up to the challenge.
“We had that shared vision of creating a product that met our mission, to create something that is expressive of Greek flavor but has something new in it,” Livanos says.
He’s hopeful the gin will provide an alternative to people looking for something different from the floral and light flavors of traditional gins.
So why Stray Dog Wild Gin? Livanos references the stray dogs that dot Greek villages.
“Stray dogs are part of the Greek landscape,” he says. “The Greeks have a neighborly relationship with the dogs.”
The dogs are beloved and cared for, even if they are “wild” strays.
“The stray dog represents the wild side of the gin that we’re trying to capture.”
In fact, a portion of the sales from the gin gets donated to underfunded dog shelters in Greece, which work to find homes for the animals.
Livanos says he’s always had a passion for beverages.
While restaurants bring people together in one place, beverages can unite a world.
“If you have your gin everywhere you can share your story all over the world,” he says. “If you share a drink with someone you’re sharing that story, that history, that experience.”
John Livanos is part of a restaurant family that stretches back to his grandfather who came to America at 18 from the island of Lesbos, specifically, Molyvos.
He was a merchant marine who got tired of life at sea, so when the ship docked in America he got off and never looked back.
From working as a dishwasher, he saved enough money to buy a small luncheonette and through his life continued to grow a family business of restaurants in New York.
Today, the Livanos Restaurant Group features the Oceana, Molyvos, and Ousia in New York City, and the Moderne Barn in Armonk, NY, and City Limits in White Plains.
The restaurants are run by John’s brother, father, aunt, and grandfather.
“Right now we have three generations all working at the same time,” he says.
Stray Dog Wild Gin hit the marketplace in February and is sold in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Illinois. Over the next few months, it will be available in Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., Delaware, Virginia, Maryland and Florida.
To find out more
For information about Stray Dog Wild Gin, visit www.straydoggin.com . The site includes a list of places that sell Stray Dog Wild Gin, as well as a link to buy it online.
Here are some recipes you can try:
STRAY DOG WILD GIN & TONIC – SIGNATURE SERVE
- 2oz Stray Dog wild gin
- 1 bottle premium tonic water
- Sage leaf garnish (slapped)
Slap the Sage! Yes, slap it! Put a sage leaf in your hand and clap to release the flavor. The larger the leaf, the stronger the aroma – so make yours your own.
An ideal drink for any side of town
- 1.5oz Stray Dog Wild Gin
- .5oz mastiha liqueur
- .75oz fresh lemon juice
- .5oz simple syrup
- 3-5 slices cucumber (muddled)
- 3 big mint leaves (muddled)
Garnish with a cucumber snake.