Please The Palate Pick of the Week: Chios Mastiha

Chios Mastiha is a natural, aromatic translucent resin produced from the mastic tree, a large shrub, which only grows on the Island of Chios in the southern part of the Greek Islands. With a sweet smell and a pine-like flavor, mastiha also has many health benefits. And, mastiha is the Please The Palate pick of the week.

I first tried mastiha when I went to Greece. Having a small glass of mastiha liqueur, instead of ouzo, is very common as a digestive after a nice meal. And if you buy a pack of gum in the airport or at a local pharmacy, you will find mastiha gum.

The word “mastic” comes from the Greek word “mastichein” which means “to gnash the teeth.” Mastiha has been scientifically proven to have beneficial properties and is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant. It is good for healing wounds and for skin regeneration. It can be a digestive and used in oral hygiene such as toothpaste. Mastiha comes in different forms: crystal, powder, capsules, oil and gum and it also comes in a liqueur.

This past week, I organized a couple events with the Chios Mastiha Growers Association in Greece, so my week was filled eating and drinking cocktails with mastiha, as well as chewing mastiha gum and resin.

When it comes to cocktails, mastiha liqueur can easily replace another white spirit. One brand currently in the market is Skinos Mastiha Liqueur. At EMA in Chicago they took their Riverside cocktail, typically made with gin or vodka, mint and lemon oleo saccharum and replaced the gin/vodka with mastiha liqueur. The result was a super refreshing drink with herbacious notes.

Another favorite drink was also at EMA in Chicago in which the classic Aviation cocktail with crème de violette, Maraschino liqueur and lemon juice was made with mastiha instead of gin.

In New York, at Mykonos Blue, the Strawbertini was made with vodka, lime juice, fresh strawberries, mint, ginger ale and Mastiha oil (just more like bitters). The aromas of the Mastiha was very prevalent in this drink. The Bright White, made with Mastiha liqueur, club sold and lemon juice is an easy, refreshing drink. There was also the Cosmopolis with Mastiha liqueur, vodka, cranberry juice and lime and the Ginger Mystique made with Prosecco, ginger ale and Mastiha oil.

In addition to cocktails, as well as food in which Mastiha is an added ingredient, I sampled a skin polisher, as well as an oil that has mastiha in it. After trying it on my hand, my skin felt so soft and nourished.

By the end of each day, I found myself chewing the mastiha gum as well. At first the piney flavor was a bit of a surprise but I actually like it and now I cannot stop chewing the gum (which can be found at Whole Foods). Good for the stomach, good for the teeth, good for the skin, and it tastes good as well, mastiha is the Please The Palate pick of the week.