This unusual vodka, made with olives, doesn’t need much adornment—especially if you’re in Santorini (photo by Mika Michopoulou)

It seems that everything that can be done to vodka has already been done, from sweet and savory infusions to oft-questionable flavors (whipped cream … really?). So we’re all the more impressed with what upstart spirits company Kastra Elion has managed to pull off, and in the most flavorful of ways: They have created the first premium sipping vodka distilled from Greek olives and grains. Subtly peppery and incredibly smooth, it’s the passion project of cofounders Frank Mihalopoulos, the company’s Chief Technology Officer and a Certified Flavor Chemist; President Mike Camello; and Chief Creative Officer Brandon Cohen. We recently chatted with the trio to get the scoop on the new spirit.

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What inspired you to work with olives?

Mike Camello: Olives have always been a big part of our lives, culture, and Mediterranean heritage. To this day, my father-in-law, Frank, even has his own olive oil company—10deka Olive Oil—that sources olives from the same Nafpaktos region that we use for our vodka. Being surrounded by that process and Greek culture, and with Brandon and I being avid vodka drinkers, we thought: Why not use olives and grains to distill vodka? It seemed like the olive would lend itself very well to the overall flavor and create a completely unique tasting profile that isn’t found in other vodkas. Two years later, Frank (a certified flavor chemist) was able to create a formula that we really believe is unique for the category.

How do the olives influence the flavors of Kastra Elion?

Frank Mihalopoulos: Olives add a new level of complexity and mouthfeel, as well as contribute some great peppery undertones with a soft, buttery finish, making for an overall smoother, more enjoyable vodka.

What’s your preferred way of enjoying Kastra Elion?

Brandon Cohen: All three of us love to drink it neat or over the rocks because it really lets the tasting notes of the vodka shine through. We prefer to enjoy the flavor, rather than bury it underneath too many layers of mixers or add-ins. Any additions are meant to complement the vodka rather than hide it. Recently, we’ve been adding in a couple of olives. It’s almost like a vodka martini straight up, but in a rocks glass with olives. It does work really well for a martini or dirty martini, too.