Opened in May 2016, Odori Vermuteria di Atene is Athens’ first bar specialized in vermouth. It is in perfect sync with the current trend for low ABV drinks and the resurgence of the aperitif culture. I visited it twice with my sister last weekend.
When we reached Odori’s location on Friday night we were greeted by music, very loud music, so loud that we could barely hear each other talk even though we were sitting on the terrace (so imagine inside!) We returned the next day though which meant it wasn’t too bad! Actually, the music was pretty good and the volume was lower on our second visit. So simply consider the word about Friday night as a fair warning in case you’re looking for a quiet night out.
Odori occupies the corner of an early 20th century building. With its high ceiling, French windows overlooking the terrace on two sides, green hedge wallpaper, stone columns, golden bar counter top and birdcages – complete with fake birds – serving as ceiling lamps, the bar is splendid. As Odori is specialized in vermouth, it has quite a selection of the spirit on display on its back bar.
The place was jam-packed on Friday evening; less so on Saturday (maybe people went away for the weekend?) The guests, all in their thirties, sat either directly at the bar or at low and high tables inside and outside on the terrace. Some were having dinner and their pizzas looked so good that my sister and I decided to return the next day to sample them. An excellent decision: they were truly delicious. It is actually possible to see them being prepared as the kitchen is behind a glass wall on the way to the bathroom! Also on the way is a wall display of liquor bottles and menus from other bars, such as the Experimental Cocktail Club, La Candelaria or Prescription Cocktail Club, all three in Paris. I didn’t get to ask why their menus were in this spot of honour but I’d love to have an explanation!
The drinks menu is nicely titled “Garden in a bottle”, an evocative name hinting at the use of botanicals in the drinks.
The menu’s first section, “The Aperitivo ritual”, contains six low ABV cocktails perfect as pre-dinner drinks. It is followed by “The Classics”, a list of five classic cocktails with their standard recipes on one side and their “unorthodox” twists on the other. “The Odori Touch” section presents other classic cocktails with, well, the Odori touch! The Old Fashioned is made with wormwood syrup instead of regular sugar/sugar syrup; the Harvey Wallbanger contains orange cordial (instead of orange juice), vermouth cooked with vanilla (instead of Galliano) and is topped up with soda water (instead of nothing). Last example, the Sazerac is made with whiskey, cognac, aromatic bitters – so far pretty classic – but sugar/sugar syrup is replaced by vermouth syrup and absinthe by ouzo for a Greek twist. A pop-up wormwood flower opens in the center of the menu. This section, “Odori Botany”, presents the botanicals the bartenders use to make most of the bar’s cocktails (hence the “Garden in a bottle” menu title): ginger, allspice, vanilla, marjoram, sage, rose, cardamom, cassia cinnamon and, of course, wormwood, one of the base components of vermouth. The next section, “The Odori Trademark”, comprises 8 house craft cocktails made with these botanicals; each of which is pictured with the cocktail’s name and ingredients. Wormwood is not used in the cocktails under this section but is ever present in vermouth and one of the ingredients of the Old Fashioned mentioned earlier for example. The final three sections of the menu are dedicated to Negroni, a famous vermouth based classic cocktail allegedly invented in Italy. As a vermouth bar and an Italian restaurant, it makes sense that Odori devotes a whole page of its menu to this drink. “The Negroni Story” tells the origins of the cocktail – at least I guessed it does as, unlike the rest of the menu, this section was written in Greek and not in English – and proposes three drinks – MiTo, Americano and Negroni. “Your own Negroni affair” allows you to “custom” your Negroni by giving you a choice of four vermouths (Martini Riserva Speciale Rubino, Odori vermouth blend, aged vermouth and a vermouth cooked with tomato) and a choice of four spirits to be added to the ever present Campari: Zacapa 23 rum, Tanqueray Gin, Don Julio Tequila and Bulleit Bourbon whiskey. Finally, if you can’t make up your mind Negroni-wise, you can opt for the “3 Bottles Negroni Experience” and be served three small bottles of classic Negroni with Tanqueray gin, Campari and a different vermouth each (i.e. Martini Riserva Speciale Rubino, aged vermouth and the vermouth cooked with tomato).
On my first visit to Odori, I tried two cocktails listed under “The Odori Trademark”. First I had a Santa Maria, a mix of rum, allspice syrup, lime juice and homemade cherry vermouth served in a martini glass with a miniature Bamboo whip (topped with a Maraschino cherry) to twirl the drink so the vermouth at the bottom of the glass would blend with the other liquids. The cocktail was good but a tad too sweet for my taste because of an overpowering cherry flavour. One was ok but two might have been too much. So for my second drink on Friday night I opted for a Marjoram. It was quite surprising but very good. When my glass arrived, I didn’t remember the ingredients that were in the cocktail, except for the marjoram – it was the cocktail’s name after all! – and the verjuice – a drink I had never had before. I lifted my glass, sniffed the drink and was left perplexed by its scent that reminisced me of Liptonic Iced tea. What was in my drink again? I looked back at the menu which read Cardhu Amber Rock, verjuice, marjoram syrup and chocolate bitters. Well then! Upon tasting, the cocktail was a bit similar to an Old Fashioned but lighter, “fresher” because of the citrus. It had a bit of sweetness to it from the syrup but the drink was well diluted and wasn’t liquory. A rather pleasant cocktail!
As mentioned earlier, we returned to Odori on Saturday for dinner. As I was running on an empty stomach, I opted for a light drink from “The Aperitivo ritual” section: a Tramonto, which contained Odori vermouth blend, Roots Herb Spirit (an herbal liqueur made in Greece) and pink grapefruit soda. The cocktail was extremely refreshing and light. It reminded me strongly of Pimm’s and I have to admit to downing it quite quickly. Again I was wondering what exactly was in my drink, especially when I realised the herb used as a garnish was a sort of oregano. I quickly searched Roots Herb Spirit online and found out it’s a Greek amaro based on Origanum dictamnus, more commonly known as dittany of Crete, a cousin of oregano. I was extremely surprises as I’m only fond of oregano in small quantities. There, the flavour was extremely subtle and the cocktail harmonious. While I don’t have Odori’s vermouth blend, I was thrilled to find a bottle of Roots Herb Spirit in a liquor store before I left Athens. All that is left to do now is for me to try to create my own variation of the Tramonto!
On a side note, just last Monday, a few days before my visit to Odoria, one of its owners, Manolis Lykiardopolous, won the Martini Grand Prix 2016 with his Ameritino (Martini Riserva Speciale Rubino, Martini Bitter, Espresso coffee, Masticha liquor and tonic water).
Odori was a fantastic discovery in Athens. It truly had it all: a big terrace, a magnificent indoor bar, delicious food and cocktails, good music…Honestly, what’s not to like there? If I go back to Athens, a visit to Odori will for sure be on the agenda.