As the weather starts warming up during the later months of spring, Greeks all over the universe initiate the process of surfing the internet for airplane tickets to the homeland.
“Going to Greece this summer?” has to be the most common question asked during the coffee time at every church hall across America after the Devine Liturgy.
What follows are detailed discussions of which airline, for how long and finally the all important “Haou mats giu pey for ticket?“.
Who can blame us? Greece offers fantastic food, beaches that make you never want to stick your foot again in the waters of the Jersey shore and… single malt Scotch whiskey. That’s right whiskey.
Don’t know about you but when I hear a patrioti say “Pame gia ena ouiskaki” in Greece I want to grab him by the throat (with both hands) and ring his neck.
“What kind of whiskey do you have?” The waiter was asked by the parea once at one of those fancy outdoor bars with waterfalls and palm trees on a Greek island, and he immediately starts calling out names of dead Scotsmen I had never heard of before. Everyone orders and now it’s my turn, so I ask for a cold Amstel. “Amstel?” I’m asked. “Yes Amstel,” I say, and everyone including the waiter starts chuckling. I make eye contact with the wife, and she gives me this “don’t you start again” look and for the first time I bite my tongue and don’t say a word.
The drinks arrive, I grab my beer but the bottle is not cold (Greece needs refrigerators that can go below 50℉) and the fun begins as one smart-ass in the group says “How will we all communicate with you, you’re drinking beer and we are drinking malt?”
I feel the wife’s kick under the table with the point of her stiletto shoe, and I was reminded of the Lumberjack defenders in college during my soccer playing days and all the bruises they had inflicted on my legs. I turn to her and say “PENALTY!”
“Re vlaho, since when did you become such an expert on Scotch?” was my reply back and “where did you start drinking whiskey, your village?”
Growing up, I don’t remember anyone drinking any alcoholic beverage other than ouzo, tsipouro wine and beer besides whiskey on a hot August night? Are you kidding me? Reminds me of the Amerikanoi who eat ice cream in the winter (and then wonder why they get sick), or hot soup in the summer.
What’s going on here?
Growing up as a teen in Greece in the 70’s I remember all those commercials with the beautiful blond riding on a white horse on a sandy beach advertising shampoo and the executive behind the mahogany office table getting his butt off the leather chair and pouring Ballantine’s blended whiskey in a crystal glass.
“Ballantine’s blended scotch whiskey,” said the commercial. I didn’t know it at the time, but the message was clear, you drink our whiskey or use our shampoo, and you will be as beautiful as that blond on the horse, even though there wasn’t a single woman with blond hair in all of Greece. Drink Ballantine’s, and you’ll be a successful business man.
What followed was whiskey consumption in Athenian hot spots and the bouzoukia where Scotch became the alcohol of choice among the upwardly mobile Greeks and those that wanted to be like them.
For those who want to venture even further into the world of Greek Whiskey: Greek Whisky, The Localization of a Global Commodity by Tryfon Bampilis.
That’s advertising one may argue, and nobody is forcing you to buy it, blah blah blah.
Well, that’s all fine and dandy. You have to understand that Greece had just come out of a 7-year dictatorship, which followed years of civil war and WWII; a country struggling to find it’s identity in the modern world, a country with no regulations and naive people who were fresh meat in the world of consumerism.
The outcome? Just take a look at what’s happening now and how messed up the country is.
The irony here is that we Greek immigrants grew up “very” Greek with parents who even though started slowly assimilating to their new lives they brainwashed their kids to the point where as teenagers we’d hit dad’s ouzo bottle and then fill it up with tap water so that he wouldn’t notice. What followed then, of course, months later was the classic kerasma from Mom to Greek (only) guests on Easter where she’d pour H₂O instead of H₂Ouzo to uncle Yianni who after a sip would fall over laughing.
You were toast. No 14K ID bracelet for Christmas.
Sorry, have to go now, my friend Spero just showed up with a case of Fix beer which he brought back from Wilkes-Barre, PA. “This was my dad’s favorite beer in Greece, and I drove 1 1/2 hour to find it,” he says.