«The secret cask of Prousa»
It was around the mid-19th century when Efstratios Samaras was spending a happy childhood with his parents and his brother Kostas, in Prousa, Asia Minor. Some years before that time, his father, Nikolaos Samaras had moved the entire family there from Constantinople.
Even when still in Constantinople, Nikolaos Samaras, the father, was engaged in trading and distilling ouzo, a practice that he continued at Prousa, his new location. Family lore has it that when his genteel friends from Constantinople would visit him at Prousa, Nikolaos Samaras would always treat them to a special ouzo blend, which he reserved in a cask for such occasions.
His two sons, who had shown an aptitude for education, also helped their father at his ouzo distillery. So, their contribution initiated them early on into the mystical world of ouzo rituals. Fully aware of the existence of the secret cask, the two brothers would sample its contents secretly, unable to resist the heavenly flavor of that ouzo. It was inevitable that their father would catch them “ouzo-handed”. They were grounded and made to promise that they would never go near that cask again until they had finished school. For one of the two brothers, that incident proved decisive for his subsequent course in life.
«An Immigrant for Love»
And the years went by. Kostas was a law student, and Stratis (Efstratios) stayed by his father’s side to continue the family’s distillation tradition. However, restless soul that he was, in tandem with ouzo production, he forged trading ties with the island of Mytilini (Lesvos), trading in olive oil and cured, salted products. Moreover, he began purchasing olive groves in Mytilini’s area of Gera.
It was during one of his business trips to the location of “Klotsia” in Gera of Mytilini that destiny took a hand in Stratis’ life. He had been assessing and negotiating the price of some land when a sudden downpour forced him to look for shelter. The only nearby land with a house on it belonged to Grandmother Marigo’s family, which took him in.
For Stratis and Marigo, it was love at first sight. That very night, Stratis formally asked Marigo’s father for her hand in marriage and explained that he would take her away with him to Prousa. Marigo’s father was polite yet firm in declining Stratis’ offer. He explained that Marigo was an only child: it was her duty to remain at Mytilini, get married there, and take care of her parents. He continued that, if Stratis was wishful of marrying Marigo, not only would he have to reside permanently in Lesvos but also transfer his distillery interests there! Decisive as ever, Stratis unhesitatingly accepted the terms set by Marigo’s father, with the land on which he and Marigo had met being her only dowry.
And that is how, for the love of a woman, the first “immigrant for love” and expert craftsman of distilled ouzo moved to Mytilini bringing along to his new location Samaras ouzo.
Out of the six children he and Marigo had had, Stratis Samaras chose his son Nikos, who bore the name of Stratis’ own father, to carry on with the distillery’s tradition. Stratis told Nikos of the story behind the secret cask of Prousa and let him know that he had brought the cask along with him to Mytilini. Then, he asked Nikos to craft the same ouzo blend in a small quantity: he wanted to be able to reserve it as a treat exclusively for friends.
At that time, Grandpa Stratis had no way of knowing that a cask of ouzo and an olive grove would change his life. Nor could he have known that, later on, all of Mytilini and, following in the island’s footsteps, all of Greece, would be touting his superbly crafted ouzo. Today, 122 years since the establishment of the distillery, the Samaras family’s fourth generation continues producing ouzo with respect to the values and tradition of the family. The ouzo craftsmen and production means may have changed. Yet, the love of our company for ouzo remains unaltered through time.