Your current favorite vodka may be made from corn. Or potatoes. Or even wheat. But Greek olives? Well, make room on your bar cart for your new favorite vodka.
The name Kástra Elión comes from the Greek words for castle (kastro) and olives (elión, derivative of eliás). And now, Kástra Elión is coming to the U.S. market in the form of Greek olive distilled vodka.
The Gourmet Insider recently spoke to its founders, Mike Camello, Brandon Cohen, and Frank Mihalopoulos, about the inspiration behind the brand; how to create some fun riffs on cocktails with it; and their goals for the brand.
TGI: Discuss a bit about your brand and what inspired you to start creating this vodka.
MC: Kástra Elión is a premium sipping vodka distilled from Greek olives and grains. It has been three generations in the making and was inspired by a love of vodka and the olives that our family grew up eating, along with our appreciation for the heritage of the Mediterranean.
TGI: What makes your vodka different from others out there on the market and why is that meaningful to you?
FM: Our vodka is different because we use handpicked Greek olives and mineral rich water from Mount Taygetus (the highest peak in Southern Greece), while traditional vodkas are made with grain. This creates a flavor profile of subtle notes of ripe olives refined with peppery undertones and a soft, buttery finish, which gives a completely different sensory profile and smoother finish than many grain or potato-based vodkas.
It is meaningful to us because we have created a new vodka experience using an ingredient that’s from our family’s hometown of Nafpaktos. We like to say Kástra Elión is where mixology meets mythology, and we love that our Greek heritage is present in every aspect of the brand.
TGI: We are obsessed with this olive thing! Why the focus there? What does it bring to an already crowded market?
BC: We share your olive obsession. It naturally brings a unique mouthfeel and complexity that we think stands out in the market. Kástra Elión has an initial sweet taste followed by a more complex, full-bodied, buttery-fruity finish with slightly spicy undertones. It truly can be sipped and enjoyed neat or on the rocks, and because it isn’t flavored, it can still enhance other cocktails.
TGI: What are some unique and fun uses for your vodka that aren’t always top of mind?
MC, BC, FM: Obviously, we think it is amazing in any martini or other vodka-based cocktail, but the complexity has allowed us to experiment with some other drink concepts. We have used it in other cocktails like an Aperol Spritz, or even a play on an Old Fashioned. We do find ourselves pulling back on the other ingredients being mixed in, making it a better-balanced cocktail.
TGI: What are your goals for Kástra and your vodka line moving forward?
MC, BC, FM: We are looking forward to growing our distribution globally, but more excited about creating opportunities in Greece. We hope to expand our faculty, create more jobs, and increase tourism to Nafpaktos. We want to create a hotel with a tasting villa where people can come not only to enjoy Kástra Elión, but all types of food and products from the region. We want people to really see and experience the culture.