Photo Credit: Gili Yaari / Flash 90

( Good news for bar and restaurant patrons who are not members of Alcoholics Anonymous: you can now derive even more enjoyment from your drink, following a recently announced collaboration between Galilee olive presser Zeita and Israeli nightclubs, offering serve staff guidance on how to incorporate different varieties of olives and different seasonings, depending on the drinks.

Zeita marketing director Maya Balaban says it is well known that serving olives with alcoholic drinks enhances their flavor, but you have to know what you’re doing. “There are clear rules which we’ve collected, that will help improve the quality of the experience, making it even more enjoyable,” she says.


Take the Kalamata variety, for example, a large, purple olive with a smooth, meaty texture, named after the city of Kalamata in the southern Peloponnesus in Greece — it will enrich the flavor of sweet beers like Paulaner and Hoegaarden. The saltiness of the Kalamata contrasts with the sweetness, producing a desire to drink some more.

Kalamata works equally well with Ouzo to forge a pleasant combination the Greeks discovered long ago, as the salty, black olive creates dryness in the pallet, readying the mouth to accept and recognize the layers of flavor of anise in the drink.

Black olives in a spicy, pungent marinade, attain pallet recognition slowly, mostly because the oil inhibits the sharpness, but after a few seconds the hot flesh fills the mouth with a sting that must be put out with a drink without delay. Clear beers like Heineken, Carlsberg, or the popular local brand Goldstar, will do the job just fine. The bitterness of the hops and the soft texture of the beer flirt with your burning mouth like firemen with a 4-alarm fire.

The same hot olive will strike a fabulous relationship with dry sherry Tio Pepe, as the absolute dryness of the drink helps strengthen the hold of the burning olive. White rum, slightly on the sweet side, will add an exotic touch to the spicy olive.

The green olive in Galilean seasoning, with its great acidity and oiliness, goes great with gin, especially with gin and tonic. The happy encounter of the lemony olive’s natural bitterness, leaves the drinker to wonder if the source of the flavorful party in their mouth is gin, tonic or olive.

Gin naturally leads us to the Martini, combining gin and vermouth, and garnished with an olive and/or a lemon twist. The Martini is probably the best-known mixed alcoholic beverage, which H. L. Mencken called “the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet,” and E. B. White dubbed “the elixir of quietude.”

If you got your Martini to be the perfect balance of sweetness and dryness, there’s only one advice regarding the olive (or two or three olives) you should pop into it: make sure it’s not black. Otherwise, any green olive will do fine.

The green Picholine olive is big and meaty. Biting into it releases a natural olive juice, sour and salty, almost without bitterness. It, too, goes well with dry sherry Tio Pepe: the Picholine olive juice together with the dryness of the sherry create a classic cocktail in your mouth, texturing the palate with dryness and oiliness.

The Syrian olive with preserved lemon, and the green olive in Italian seasoning, will grace sweet drinks like Campari, Sambuca, Grappa, and a strong weed concoction like Fernet-Branca.

Neat vodka, striving for neutrality, is easily overtaken by tantalizing olive flavors in the mouth, cleansing unwanted tastes. Vodka is one drink that goes well with absolutely any olive you’ll throw at it.

Here is a public service, in the form of a short list of the drinks you should not serve with olives: smoky whiskey, deep whisky, bourbon and rye — they just won’t mix well with olives. But you can try brandy, with its hint of grape sweetness.


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