You will probably make your first acquaintance with a Cypriot or with local food over a drink and mezedhes - consisting of many small dishes with different kinds of food on them - in a coffee shop , a restaurant or a taverna .
Wine in Cyprus has been made and used from the time immemorial , especially Commandaria , which used to be called "Cyprus Nama" and which is a thick sweet wine that can be kept for over a hundred years and is used for Holy Communion and as a fortifying drink .
When the Knights Templars and Hospitallers arrived in Cyprus around the 12th. century , they also took a liking to this wine and as the wine - producing villages came under the commandery of Kolossi , and this wine was exported by the Knights to Europe , it got the name by which it is known today ; the Wine of the Commandery , or Commandaria .
During the Venetian times it was exempted from duty in Venice because of its healing values and was used as a fortifying medicine as well .
Today , wines , sherries and brandies are one of the Island's main exports and a Wine Festival , which is held every year at the end of September in Limassol , goes on for ten nights . It is usually held in the Municipal Gardens , which are suitably decorated for the occasion . After paying a small entrance fee and buying your glass and bottle , you can fill it up free of charge from the large barrels . Then you can have roast meat , or chicken and kebabs , or fried fish , as you sit at little tables ; you can watch the side - shows , or dance to the rhythm of a modern orchestra .
By ten o'clock everybody feels happy and relaxed and behaves as they were at a big party where all are friends , dancing and singing together .
To drink in Cyprus does not mean to gulp down infinite quantities of alcocholic liquids until one becomes unconscious . Here , drink is an excuse for friends to sit and spend a pleasant few hours together . It is a means of loosening the tongue , of bringing one's inner self to the surface , making one happy and transforming one into a philosopher who sees life pleasantly through the ruby or amber liquid that is in one's glass .
In olden days in the villages , there was only one glass . This was filled by the host , tasted and then passed round the table . Each member of the company took one gulp . The last drops were poured onto the ground , an ancient custom of offering to the gods . In the meantime the table was continually replenished with food . And this could , and still does last for hours , or even days ! ... A Cypriot "Diaskedasis" - feast - can start at lunchtime and go on until midnight even to this day .
But , you have to learn to eat with your drink and to do it slowly . Relax and enjoy it ! You will never find a Cypriot drunk in the way you find a foreigner , because he will never accept drink on an empty stomach . He must have something to go with it , some "mezedhes" . There may be just a few , or they may be of an infinite variety .
This is the way to spend a pleasant evening . There must be no hurry once you have sat down . And it is the women who must see that the plates are kept full and the menfolk happy . Drinking and eating is ... a privilege of the menfolk ! So , try to keep them happy with a few or many mezedhes .
"Mezes" means delicacy . And delicacies are always appreciated more if they come in small quantities . That is probably why they are served on small plates .
For simple mezedhes , that is , if someone unexpectedly drops in to see you and your husband desides to offer him a drink , although you may think you have nothing to offer , you will surely have some cheese which you can cut up into thin slices , tomatoes and cucumbers to fill another small dish , a bit of salad , nuts , olives , salami , lountza or ham , or some meat left over from lunch - time - and if you have some haloumi , it is delicious if fried or grilled . Some eggs can be hard boiled and cut into quarters , and you can add a dish of orange segments . In no time you can produce a tray full of attractive looking mezedhes .
But , if you invite people , then you can make an infinite variety of dishes - mayonnaise salad , savoro , zalatina , kieftedhes , koupepia , souglakia , sheftalia , tahinosalata , taramosalata , skordalia , houmous , talattouri , kalamaria , bourekia , kanellonia , kaloyrka , ravioles , koupes , to mention just a few .