On a quest for inspiration, Hamish Smith visits Line in Athens, where he catches up with co-owner Vasilis Kyritsis who talks us through his pathbreaking new bar.
The all-day bar foucsing on house-made fruit ferments was founded by Vasilis Kyritsis, Nikos Bakoulis (co-owners of The Clumsies) and Dimitris Dafopoulos (co-founder of Three Cents) last year.
HS: Vasilis, Line is like no bar I’ve been to. Tell us about what you do there…
VK: The space, which is big, used to be an old gallery, located in a neighbourhood of Athens called Kato Petralona. We create four basic products at Line: our fruit wines, our sourdough breads, our beer and our classic cocktails made using the waste from everything else.
HS: The fruit wines you make on site – strawberry, fig and pomegranate were among the ones I tasted – were incredible expressions of their ingredients. How do you go about the process?
VK: Our fruit wines, which we call Why-ins, are the strongest part of our in-house offering. We collaborate with one of the most important winemakers of Greece for this, Thanos Georgilas (T-Oinos wine), whose knowhow drives the process and is helped by the Line team. We also collaborate with some of the best farmers in Greece to pick the best-quality seasonal fruits. These fruits – up to 500kg for each ferment – are delivered directly for production. Our fruit Why-ins are separated into Classic and Fancy. The Classic category is inspired by the process of grape wine production – the fruit, which is fermented, wholly shaping the flavour profile and identity of the wine. The only variables at play for our Classic fruit wines are temperatures and the yeasts.
The Fancy category, meanwhile, is inspired by our bartending background. We still ferment the fruits but at different stages of fermentation we add flavoured distillates, our homemade aromas or sometimes fresh fruits for a couple of days to create new profiles. It’s like making a cocktail but a cocktail that takes four to six weeks to make. With our pomegranate Why-In, we buy two different varieties from the same house of pomegranate. The wonderful variety is more balanced and we use it to make the classic version, while the acco variety is more sour, so we use this for our Fancy version, with tomato, walnut distillate, rose and smoke. For our Fancy Fig Why-In, we ferment dried fig wine and during the process, for one or two days, we add in brioche bread with pistachio for flavour and at another stage sliced fresh oranges for around one or two days. We then carbonate the final result to create a profile which looks like an old-style champagne.
HS: So your cocktails are created off the back of the fruit wine process?
VK: With so much fruit being fermented, we create a lot of waste, which we use to make new yeasts for the new batch of fermentations and cocktail ingredients for our Classic cocktails. For example, in our version of Pisco Sour we use the waste of our Fig Why-in along with peach to make a syrup. We also use our Pomegranate Classic Why-in as a base to make our version of sweet vermouth, and the heads of our re-distillations as a base to make our flavour extracts which go into the vermouth. We use this vermouth in our cocktails, including our version of a Negroni.
HS: And your breads and cheeses are tied in too?
The wine-making waste also makes its way into our food menu. We don’t buy any powders, vinegars and sauces – they all come from the waste of products from the Why-in or elsewhere from the bar. We are making our cheese using the fruit pulp from fermentation so on a table, along with your Strawberry Why-in, you can experience a cheese from strawberry fermentation, sourdough flavoured with strawberry, a chutney of strawberry and spices and a Spritz based on our Strawberry Why-In. We try to make our processes as circular as possible.