Greece – Greek Buck

Games We Play

Greece is the birthplace of the Olympic Games, which most of us love every time they roll around and dominate our conscious for two and a half weeks. You don’t even have to be a sports fan to enjoy the Olympics (it helps, but it’s not needed) which has grown to be the landmark athletic event across the globe. And we have the Greeks to thank for all this physical goodness!

The Olympics, held in honour of the god Zeus, were named as such because they took place in Olympia, dating back thousands of years ago. It wasn’t until 1896 that the modern version of the Games took place, hosted by Athens (featuring 43 events, being contested by 280 athletes from 13 countries). The term Olympiad refers to the four year period between Olympics and became a unit of time measurement for Greeks.

Olympics Relevance

From humble beginnings (the first recorded Olympics only included one event: the stade (where we now get the word stadium from), a 192-meter foot race based on the size of Zeus’ foot), the world’s biggest sporting event now showcases countless sports and within them, a number of different disciplines. The ancient games were said to have been started by Hercules (aka Heracles), who ran a race that he decided should be repeated every four years. I wonder if that story will make it into any of the Rock’s new movies based on the character.

It wasn’t until many years and Olympics later that other events were added to the slate. The diaulos, a 400-meter race and the dolichos, either 1,500 meters or 5,000 meters. Later additions included the petathalon (five events comprised of a foot race, long jump, discus, javelin, and wrestling), boxing, chariot racing, and pankration, a no-holds-barred wrestling and boxing hybrid that sounds like a precursor to mixed martial arts.

The last event added to the ancient Olympics was the hoplitodromos, a 400-800-meter race run wearing full armor, including shields, helmets, and all the other suit pieces. Competitors were likely to have fallen repeatedly thanks to their own outfits, as well as the discarded pieces of other racers. I’d love to see something like this run today, for sheer entertainment purposes. It would be like Wacky Racers for world-class athletes.

Olympic Event

Events were originally contested by only freeborn Greek males. Not only were women not allowed to participate in the sports, but married women couldn’t even attend the Olympics. Competition winners received an olive branch instead of a gold medal. I wonder if they still wore it around their neck and received endorsement deals based on their performance. Perhaps Coroebus, winner of the first recorded Olympics ended up hawking used chariots or something.

Prior to and during the Olympic Games, truces were arranged country-wide to let athletes and viewers pass through cities on their way to Olympia unscathed. Capital punishment and acts of war were banned, although there are accounts of these rules being broken, often resulting in the aggressing group’s exclusion from the Games, as well as a hefty fine.

What has now become a nearly three week long cultural event began as five days, with three being dedicated to sport and the other two to celebrations and rituals. The ancient version of the closing ceremony included a feast of 100 oxens… something I’d like to see return to the modern Games. In the years that the Olympics weren’t being held, there were similar competitions known as the Pythian, Nemean, and Isthmian Games. The Olympics remained the preeminent sporting event.

olympics nude

Athletes competed nude as a tribute to the gods and much like ESPN’s Body Issue magazine series, so people could appreciate the male body. We get the word gymnasium from the Greek word gymnos, which means naked. Kind of makes you never want to do physical education ever again. Some participants chose to wear a kynodesme, which sounds like a really uncomfortable penis cap. Can you imagine the TV ratings if Olympians still had to compete in the buff!?

After Greece was seized by the Roman Empire, Emperor Nero once entered the chariot race and declared himself the winner, despite falling off his chariot during the running. Later, Emperor Theodosius ended the Games, banning all pagan festivals. The Olympics wouldn’t return for 1,500 years, revived by Baron Pierre de Coubertin of France, who also established the International Olympic Committee.

The first Olympic marathon in 1896 was fittingly won by Greece’s Spyridon Louis. It followed the 25-mile path run by a Greek soldier from the city of Marathon to Athens to inform the masses of the Greeks victory over the Persians. Nearly 30 years later, the marathon’s distance was permanently set at 26 miles and 385 yards. No amount of Ouzo could help me through that epic event, but it will nicely wrap up this article!

Greece: Greek Buck

Greek Buck Cocktail

  • 1.5 oz Brandy
  • Top with Ginger Ale
  • Splash of Lemon Juice
  • Float Ouzo
  • Garnish with Lemon Wedge

One of my greatest pleasures was working for NBC during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. I suppose I still owe the Greeks a debt of gratitude for that wonderful winter month!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4.5 Sips out of 5):
I never know how an Ouzo cocktail is going to turn out and this one was pretty damn good. Floating the Ouzo was a really nice touch as first of all, it looked good, like white frosting across the top of the cocktail. Next, getting a splash of Ouzo with each sip, followed by the Brandy, Ginger Ale, and Lemon Juice made each taste a new adventure!

Italy – The Winkle

Sicilian Slice

The modern pizza was invented in Naples, Italy and god bless them for doing so. Throughout the Sip Advisor’s life, pizza has always remained at or near the top of my favourite foods list. I don’t care that it’s not exactly a healthy choice and often falls under the junk food category… it’s god damn delicious!

The term ‘pizza’ can be traced all the way back to the year 997 AD in the city of Gaeta, Italy. Before that, flat breads called foccasia were garnished with a variety of toppings, but were usually sweet dishes, rather than savoury. In the 18th century, the people of Naples began adding tomatoes to the mix and thus the modern pizza was born, before spreading around the world thanks to Italian immigrants.

Pizza Gross

The thing I love about pizza is its versatility. It’s great upon first serving and a rare food item that can be better reheated later or even scarfed down cold, straight out of the fridge. It’s the perfect breakfast – especially after a night of hard drinking – as it doesn’t take much effort to prepare while you’re still a little fuzzy. Apparently, I’m not alone, as 36% of Americans think it makes the perfect morning meal.

As of 2012, there were 11,139 Pizza Hut outlets across 94 countries. Pizza Hut’s largest competitor, Domino’s Pizza, has more than 10,000 stores and is the world leader in delivery services. Along with these two giants are so many other companies hawking bread, cheese, sauce, and toppings, totaling more than five billion pizzas sold every year, with more than half of those sales occurring in the United States.

The largest pizza ever made weighed 12.9 tons and was created at the Norwood Pick ‘n Pay in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1990. The pie had a diameter of 37.4 meters (122 feet, 8 inches) and used 500kg of flour, 800kg of cheese, and 900kg of tomato sauce.

Pizza Win

The most expensive pizza ever made included ingredients such as sunblush-tomato sauce, Scottish smoked salmon, venison medallions, lobster marinated in gognac, champagne-soaked caviar, and even edible gold. Made by restaurant owner Domenico Crolla, the pizza was auctioned for charity and raised 2,150 pounds. The most expensive regularly sold pizza can be found at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant Maze, in London. Each serving will set you back 100 pounds, not to mention the weight that will be added to your waistline.

If you’re having a massive party, you could consider hitting up Big Mama’s and Papa’s Pizzeria in California, where you can purchase a pizza that measures 4’6” x 4’6” and serves anywhere from 50-100 people. Just make sure that competitive food eater Joey Chestnut isn’t on the guest list, as the dude set the world record for most pizza slices eaten in 10 minutes when he polished off 40 ½ slices.

Brooklyn, New York’s Scott Wiener (heh, wiener!) owns the world’s largest pizza box collection. As of late 2013, he has amassed 595 pizza boxes from 45 different countries. He only began collecting in 2008 after grabbing some ‘za in Israel and admiring the box there. Wiener’s favourite piece in his collection is a box from the Netherlands which features characters similar to Homer and Bart Simpson. Not content to just receive a certificate from the Guinness Records folks, Wiener has even released a book, Viva La Pizza, chronicling some of the world’s most artistic pizza boxes.

Pizza Simpsons

Pepperoni is the most popular topping worldwide, but so many specialty pizzas have popped up over the years thanks to this wonderful gastronomic invention. Let’s take a look at some of these “gourmet” options from around the globe:

Africa: The Africana pizza includes meat (ham/beef/chicken), peanuts, banana, pineapple, onion, and curry powder. I can’t say I’ve ever had a pizza with peanuts or banana, but it has me thinking about some of the combos the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came up with back in the day.

Australia: Known as The Aussie, Australian, or Australiana, this pizza takes your traditional base of marinara sauce and cheese, but then puts bacon and eggs on top. That sounds like a hell of a way to get your breakfast in at all times of the day!

Canada: The Canadian pizza isn’t very elaborate, combining bacon, pepperoni, and mushrooms. I think if our country had a do-over, we’d come up with something involving poutine, maple syrup, and hockey tape to hold it all together!

Pizza Turtles

Caribbean: I’m not sure which exact country you can attach this recipe to, but mixing barbeque sauce, chicken, pineapple, onion, and green peppers sounds like something I’d want to lay claim to if I belonged to any of these island nations.

France: The French pizza has seemingly normal toppings (chicken, mushrooms, peppers, olives) until you get to its sauce: Dijon mustard. While this would be something I’d try, Mrs. Sip would not be happy to find the yellow stuff on her meal.

Greece: The Greek pizza usually features olives, feta cheese, green peppers, and tomatoes… all the ingredients that make up a Greek salad. In the best scenarios chicken souvlaki is also thrown into the mix and if the Sip Advisor was running the show, he’d drizzle some tzatziki sauce all over that bad boy!

Indonesia: The Balinese pizza comes with shredded pork, roasted red peppers, and garlic. At least they’re not using the monkeys found all over the island for toppings… those little buggers may have attacked Mrs. Sip and I, but I still love them.

Pizza Dogs

Jamaican: Jerk Chicken is at the heart of this pizza, which frankly is Jamaican me hungry!

Mexico: The Mexican or Mexicana pizza usually involves ingredients one would find on tacos and other Americanized fare from the country. This includes ground beef, jalapenos, onions, tomatoes, chili, avocado, peppers, etc. The cheese on the Mexican pizza is sometimes modified to be of the pepper jack variety to help add another dash of spice to the recipe.

Portugal: Portuguese pizzas include Portuguese sausage, onions, and bell peppers. This pie may not be for the weak of heart.

Pizza Cat

Thailand: Thai pizzas are highlighted by Thai chicken and also include peanut sauce, bean sprouts, and shaved carrots. Pizzas may not be the healthiest of food, but that mix doesn’t sound as artery clogging as others.

United States: The Hawaiian is probably the U.S.’s most recognized pizza, combining ham and pineapple, but there are other options, including Santa Fe, with spiced chicken and the Californian, featuring club sandwich ingredients, such as avocado and bacon. The U.S. is also famous for all the different style of pizza, such as Chicago deep dish, Detroit twice-baked, New York thin crust, St. Louis rectangle slices, and New Haven no cheese.

Italy: The Winkle

The Winkle Martini

  • Muddle Raspberries and Sage
  • 1.5 oz Gin
  • 1 oz Limoncello
  • Splash of Lime Juice
  • Dash of Simple Syrup
  • Garnish with a Sage Sprig

Pizza should be celebrated, so why not observe National Pizza Month, which occurs every October in the U.S. You could also attend the annual International Pizza Expo, which takes place in Las Vegas every March. Either way, make sure to enjoy as much pizza pie goodness as you can and thank those crazy Italians for coming up with this culinary gem!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4.5 Sips out of 5):
I absolutely loved this martini, although everyone I told to try a sip wasn’t in agreement with ol’ Mr. Sip. The Sage was a unique ingredient that I’ve never used before this. The Gin and Limoncello worked together in perfect harmony… kind of like cheese, bread, and tomato sauce!