Athens is home to thousands of bars and cafés where delicious drinks and cocktails are made every day. But if you are looking for a real showstopper, head straight to the oldest one of all. Located in the touristy area of Athens, Plaka, Brettos (pronounced Vrettos in Greek) is the Greek capital’s oldest bar and distillery, established by Michail Brettos in 1909.
Michail Brettos started the business in the early 20th century; he produced ouzo, as well as brandy and a selection of liqueurs, by using old recipes from the ancient Greek city of Smyrna, in modern-day Turkey. Brettos operated the distillery for 60 years in two locations in Athens before selling it; today, the current owner is Ioannis Papadonikolakis, who decided to maintain the authentic charm of the place. And he has clearly succeeded.
As soon as you step inside Brettos, you will be amazed by the wall adorned with colorful glass liqueur bottles and impressive original wooden barrels Michail Brettos used for ouzo (keep your eyes open to spot the original cauldron used for the distillation). Its unique décor is probably one of the reasons why Brettos is one of the most photographed locations in Athens, behind the Acropolis, Syntagma Square and other ancient monuments and sites in the city.
But besides the picture-perfect interior, Brettos is also where you can enjoy some authentic ouzo or over 50 different types of liqueur. The most popular flavors chosen by locals and visitors alike include mastiha (definitely not surprising), limoncello, watermelon, peppermint, orange, mango, coffee, and coconut. Those into harder drinks can opt for the original brandy produced by Brettos or one of the original cocktails made from the liqueurs available in the store, as well as over 200 labels of Greek wines.
Since all the liqueur and brandy recipes are original and date back to the 19th century, you are drinking history at Brettos, though on a sadder note, given the current low demand, production has been relocated elsewhere. However, if you enjoy the various liqueurs, you will be happy to know that you can buy different bottles and take them home with you as a lasting souvenir of this hidden Athenian treasure—a definite plus if you ask us.
Remember, since Brettos is quite popular in the evenings, it’s best to drop by in the late afternoon to secure a good spot and take a few pictures before the groups of tourists and Athenians arrive. This way you will also have the chance to get help from one of the skilled bartenders, who will be able to answer all of your questions on Greek brandy and liqueurs.