Season’s Joy in a Glass: Retsina & Tonic Cocktail Recipe

For several years now, during my Greek wine classes or workshops, I have been recommending Retsina as a scrumptious lower-alcohol alternative to gin, for a G&T-style cocktail. So I figured, just in time for the holidays, I should finally share an R&T recipe here.

I deliberately write ‘a’ instead of ‘THE’ recipe, because it is important to know that Retsina comes in a wide range of quality and flavour intensity levels. Much depends on the type and quantity of pine resin added during production, the resin’s freshness, the overall quality and grape varieties of the base wine and much more. Based on this, you will need to tailor the recipe below to the specific Retsina you’re using.

On top of that, people’s sensitivity to bitter flavours and their familiarity with – or aversion to – Retsina wines tends to vary greatly. Due to old holiday wine traumas, I myself used to think Retsina was revolting. However, largely thanks to this specific one, I have certainly come around… 🙂


For the perfect R&T, you need:

  • a good-quality Retsina. I have used Aoton Winery‘s Retsina of Mesogia here;
  • a good tonic. I love this with the widely available and more delicately flavoured Fever-Tree Elderflower Tonic. A good Indian tonic works as well, but it makes the cocktail slightly more bitter;
  • a lemon – preferably organic as you’ll be using the peel as well;
  • a sprig of fresh rosemary;
  • a handful of ice cubes.

Lemon peel and rosemary are essential here to bring the flavours together. The terpene aroma compounds, which they all have in common, create aroma bridges – and therefore flavour harmony – for food pairings as well as in this cocktail.

How to Make an R&T

  • chill your glass;
  • crush the rosemary, rub it inside and on the rim of the glass and toss it in;
  • cut strips of lemon peel, rub one on the rim of the glass and add these as well;
  • add a lemon slice or wedge of lemon;
  • fill the glass with ice cubes;
  • squeeze the juice from 1/2 lemon and pour it over the ice;
  • fill up with equal parts Retsina and tonic (+- 100 mL each for 1/2 lemon);
  • stir briefly and enjoy!

Tips and Variations

  • adapt the ratio of Retsina, tonic and lemon juice to suit your own taste. You can be more generous with Retsina compared to gin because it has a much lower alcohol percentage (around 13% ABV compared to 40);
  • for a rosĂ© R&T:
    • use a rosĂ© Retsina;
    • replace the lemon from the recipe above with pink grapefruit;
    • experiment with fresh thyme (regular, lemon or orange thyme) or mint instead of rosemary.

Available From

In Belgium, you can find this specific Retsina at the following addresses:

Enjoy, and keep us posted about your own R&T adventures! 🙂


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