Production of Alcoholic Beverages
Distillery was a significant industrial field and flourished particularly in the city of Kalamata from the late 19th to early 20th century. The history of Greek liquor production started in Kalamata in 1850 with the establishment of the company of G.Kallikounis. The company quickly gained a great reputation and became known not only throughout Greece, but also in Europe and America, with an annual output of exports equal to 300,000 ‘okkas’ of alcoholic beverages, liqueurs and wine in 1900.
In the distilleries of the Kallikounis Company a wide variety of aromatic plants, herbs, roots and flowers (rose, jasmine,and honeysuckle) were combinedand extracted using alcohol made of raisins and wine.
Laurel, mint and wormwood leaves, angelica roots, aloe, quassia wood, cedar seeds, anise and coriander seeds, cardamom, ‘despotiko’ and many other herbs and seeds were soaked in alcohol and distilled in copper cauldrons. Lemon and bitter orange blossoms, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, peels of cascarilla and aromatic reed were extracted at various alcoholic degrees in wooden extractors.
Tsipouro is another alcoholic beverage produced in Messinia, using a traditional method. After harvesting and the pressing of the grapes at the wine press, the must was separated from the pomace(‘tsifila’-‘stemfila’-‘tsipoura’). Τhe must was transported into barrels and the pomace placed into another barrel called ‘vouta’ to undergoits own fermentation. Some of the pomace wasburied into pitsfilled by plane or fig leavesto prevent it from coming in contact with the soil. The process of alcohol distillation was done in the raki cauldron (distiller),which was sealed by the respective authority and a special permission was granted by the local police (Law No. 1988).
Traditional distilleries (called a rakokazano, raki boiler, orkazani, plural), are comprised of large copper boilers and include long copper funnels on top so that the steam can escape. The distillers themselves are called 'kazanari'. The funnels, which pass through barrels placed on the sides of the distillation flask and are filled with cold water, end up on the outside of the barrels, on top of empty glass containers. Boilers are filled with the pomace and a little water or wine, hermetically sealed and finally placed onto the bonfires.
The hot steam passes into the funnel and as it then travels through the barrel of cold water, it condenses and liquidates. In approximately half an hour, the warm raki or tsikoudia begins to fall drop by drop, on the other side of the funnel, into the glass containers. The liquid that first comes out of the funnel cannot be consumed but is used for therapeutic purposes (massage). The final amount of distilled liquid contains the least amount of alcohol, whereas the actual tsikoudia is produced during the middle of the entire process. This lasts for about three hours, during which the owners of the boilers must taste for alcohol content, increase or decrease the heat and finally stop distillation when the tsikoudia has acquired the desired taste. To give it a yellowish color they put into the cauldron peels from apples, lemons, oranges, citrus and anise and place cinnamon into the second tube.
It should be noted that nowadays in Messinia there are a number of companies in the production of alcoholic beverages, having as their primary goal the quality of their products.