Kitro of Naxos, the Greek liqueur made of… leaves
The cultivation of the citron tree (Citrus medica) and the marketing of its fruit - which was exported in large quantities, thus constituting an integral part of agricultural economy - flourished on the island of Naxos for at least three centuries before gradually decreasing in the post-war years. Citrons were exported to foreign countries preserved in seawater and braced by additional salt.
The citron leaves, found in overabundance in the past, were used to offer their subtle and unequaled aroma to Raki, a viticulture product. That is why the drink was originally named Kitrorako. There are written testimonies of the presence of Kitrorako on the island of Naxos and its common use as early as at the beginning of the 19th century.
According to official evidence, the production of the liqueur made from citron leaves, Kitro of Naxos, started out at least two centuries ago and records speak of the first export of the liqueur made of citron in 1928.
Nowadays, Kitro of Naxos is traditionally and exclusively produced in Greece, on the island of Naxos. This traditional Greek liqueur shows enormous potential in the international market, particularly after its exclusive production in Greece was secured by EU legislation.
The production of Kitro of Naxos begins with the harvest of the leaves, when their aroma is at its peak, i.e. from October to February. It is a rather arduous task since the sharp thorns of the tree are only made worse by the wind and cold. Any dry or unsuitable parts are removed from the leaves, which are then placed into traditional copper stills along with their stems and peels, water and alcohol, for at least twelve (12) hours, and in turn distilled until the 100% citron distillate is obtained.
Depending on the desired quality of the distillate, there may be a second or even third distillation, in other words the first distillate may be left to boil in the presence of new leaves.
This heightens the citron's already pungent aroma and taste. The distillate is then diluted with water, whereas sugar and natural colorants are in turn added to distinguish the various types of the Kitro of Naxos Liqueur: the driest and strongest liqueur (36% vol.), the one of an intermediate alcoholic strength and sugar content (33% vol.) and Kitro of Naxos with the highest sugar content and the lowest alcoholic strength (30% vol.), namely the favorite liqueur of the people of Naxos.
Kitro of Naxos is a particularly elegant and aromatic spirit drink. Once served, it displays delicate aromas of sweet citrus fruits on the nose that follow through to the palate. It is drunk in destillate glasses and not only aids digestion, but is particularly pleasant as well. Moreover, it is rather mild and friendly on the palate, which is why it is preferred even by those who avoid the strongest of distillates.