When the sun goes down and the streets cool off, Greece wakes up. Older folks sit late into the night at coffee houses with a shot or two of ouzo or raki while younger generations linger at sidewalk cafes sipping cocktails, and fill trendy clubs. Drinking is social in Greece and public drunkenness isn't cool. Heavily touristed towns and cities have bars with drink specials but they mostly draw foreigners.
While there is coffee strong enough to stand a spoon in and ouzo that will knock you flat, thankfully Greece also has plenty of tamer options for quenching your thirst.
The ubiquitous kafeneio (coffee house) is a time-honoured tradition, with older Greeks stationed over a cup of coffee, intensely debating local politics, football or gossip. They're often small and unchanged for generations, and it's well worth visiting at least one. The trendy cafes serving iced coffees are the modern answer to the kafeneia and are usually packed with a younger crowd.
Greek coffee is traditionally brewed in a briki (narrow-top pot), on a hot-sand apparatus called a hovoli, and served in a small cup. Order a metrio (medium, with one sugar) and sip slowly until you reach the mud-like grounds (don't drink them).
Ouzo – Greece's famous liquor – has come to embody a way of eating and socialising, enjoyed with mezedhes (small plates) during lazy, extended summer afternoons. Sipped slowly and ritually to cleanse the palate between dishes, ouzo is usually served in small bottles or karafakia (carafes) with a bowl of ice cubes to dilute it (turning it a cloudy white).
Ouzo is made from distilled grapes with residuals from fruit, grains and potatoes, and flavoured with spices, primarily aniseed, giving it that liquorice flavour. The best ouzo is produced on Lesvos (Mytilini).
The Greek wine renaissance has been gaining international attention and awards, with first-class wines being produced from age-old indigenous varietals with unique character. The latest generation of internationally trained winemakers are producing great wines from Greece's premier wine regions, including Nemea in the Peloponnese, the vineyards of Santorini, the Iraklio Wine Country on Crete and Naoussa in the Cyclades.
Greek white varieties include moschofilero, asyrtiko, athiri, roditis, robola and savatiano; the popular reds include xinomavro, agiorgitiko and kotsifali.
House or barrel wine varies dramatically in quality (white is the safer bet), and is ordered by the kilo/carafe. Few places serve wine by the glass.
Greek dessert wines include excellent muscats from Samos, Limnos and Rhodes, Santorini's Vinsanto, Mavrodafni wine (often used in cooking) and Monemvasia's Malmsey sweet wine.
Retsina, white wine flavoured with the resin of pine trees, became popular in the 1960s and retains a largely folkloric significance with foreigners. It does go well with strongly flavoured food (especially seafood) and some winemakers make a modern version.