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Stray Dog puts Greece on gin map

Founder and restaurant veteran Johnny Livanos hopes to capture the flavours of his home country with his new spirit, Stray Dog Wild Gin.

Stray Dog Wild Gin
Stray Dog Wild Gin is made with botanicals such as rosemary, cardamom, lemon and orange

In 2017, Johnny Livanos was walking through a Greek vineyard when he stumbled upon the idea to make a gin. He was drinking tsipouro, a pomace-based spirit similar to grappa, and decided to add wild rosemary, sage, and other herbs surrounding him into his glass. 

“I went back to have a sip of my infused spirit. And I was like, ‘Okay, wait a second. This is delicious,’” he said. Livanos already managed a Greek-focused beverage programme at his family-owned restaurant Molyvos, and saw an opportunity to bring a new world gin to Greece.

“There’s no gin made in Greece. We make spirits. We have ouzo, which is a popular botanical spirit, which is almost gin except instead of juniper, it’s fennel seed and anise,” Livanos said. “We have all this tradition, let’s do something new with it.”

Livanos brought the idea back to his wife, Adriana Soley Livanos, a Barcelona-born bartender and brand developer. Together, in 2020, they launched Stray Dog Wild Gin which uses foraged mountain sage, bay leaf, rosemary, fennel seed, mastiha, cardamom, coriander, juniper, lemon and orange. The goal was to capture the Greek wilderness, the flavours of culture and the cuisine.

“Take these flavours that have been around for hundreds of years, and put them in a way that’s classic, yet also modern,” Livanos said. “To have a product that captures that essence of Greece. If you’ve travelled to Greece, you get it. To have a product that helps bring people back to those moments.”

Stray Dog is bottled at 43.5% ABV and available in 26 states for US$43. It is described as savoury, and designed to complement Mediterranean cuisine and shine in minimalist cocktails. Soley Livanos brings a background in cocktail competitions that includes winning first place at the Swizzle Masters in 2013, run by The Spirits Business

She says that for her, the brand represents coming together from diverse backgrounds. “You can come from different parts of the world and you can still enjoy the simple pleasures in life,” she said.

Still, there has been an immediate impact within the Greek community. “Greece being a passionate culture, people are very proud of their Greek heritage, to have a product that showcases those flavours in a new way has gotten people very excited,” Livanos said. 

A portion of sales are donated to Save a Greek Stray, which provides food and veterinary care and homes for stray animals in Greece.

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