Ouzo and tsipouro - national drinks of Greece
It is well-known that Greeks know how to enjoy in food, drink, music, in life in general. Ouzo and tsipouro are helping them to enjoy more everyday life.
Ouzo and tsipouro are recognized by the EU as Greek national products and are protected by geographical origin.
According to the Greeks, ouzo is not only a drink, but the way of life.
The island Lesvos is considered the homeland of this popular alcoholic drink, although northern Greece has a long tradition in its production. Although there are many recipes, the basic ingredients of ouzo are alcohol and aromatic plants (seeds). Raw material is almost pure alcohol (96%) obtained by the distillation of an agricultural product (grapes, cereals …), and re-distillation is done by aromatic seeds that necessarily includes anise, but cardamom, mastic, coriander can also be included. Depending on the recipe, ginger, mint, cinnamon, cloves, and even peal of orange, tangerine or lemon can be added.
Ouzo officially belongs to the liqueurs and it is drunk as an aperitif, before eating. It is mandatory to drink ouzo while eating salt meze, which can be different depending on the region. In seaside places it is usually served with dry and salted fish (anchovies, sardines…), and in the continental part with meat, salted feta, olives…
By the rule, ouzo is served in narrow, tall glasses into which cold water or ice is added, and not long after ouzo gets a milky color. This color is created after the interaction of water with anise oil. It is best that water is constantly added as ouzo is drunk, not only at the beginning. If you eat while drinking ouzo, you can drink it for a long time and enjoy it without getting drunk. This is also the purpose of mixing it with water. It is said that anise relaxes and lowers the blood pressure, helps absorption of iron and regulates digestion.
Ouzo is sweet, but pretty strong so you should not drink it fast and in large amounts.
In Greece, these days there are hundreds of ouzo producers, but the most popular and most valuable are still the producers from the island Lesvos, where ouzo is produced from the late 19th century. If you would like to try ouzo while you are on vacation or to buy and take it home with you, we recommend you to buy ouzo that was produced exactly on this island, in the town Plomari. Some of the most famous brands are Barbayanni, Mini, Plomari.
When buying less-known brands, it’s best to check if it’s distilled.
Except of ouzo, another very popular drink in Greece is tsipouro and for Greeks it is probably more favorite one. While the tsipouro is always made of grapes, ouzo can be made of other agricultural products, such as cereals. Tsipouro was firstly produced by the monks from the Holy Mountain in the 14th century, and then the production and use were spread throughout Greece. Tsipouro is distilled manny times in order to have stronger taste. If you do not like the characteristic taste and smell of anise (as ouzo) that gives to tsipouro a sweet taste and a characteristic flavor, then you have the option to buy tsipouro without it, which in fact represents the original tsipouro. Anise is added to the tsipouro only in northern Greece. You can buy a good tsipouro on the green market from the villagers. During the vacation it is best to ask your accommodation owners where they are buying it, so if you are planning to buy it, then you can buy the domestic one, not from the store.
Tsipouro is also mixed with water, but if it is without anise, it will not flake. Tsipouro to Greeks is like grape brandy to Serbs, so it is best to buy it directly from the producer rather than the industrial one.
The second name for the tsipouro is tsikoudia and this name is used on the island Crete. Raki is the same as tsipouro and tsikoudia, but the name “raki” is protected by Turkey.
On Crete, tsikoudia is served after the meal for better digestion, in small, chilled glasses.
Tsipouro and ouzo can have a similar taste, especially if anise is added to tsipouro, but the difference in production is huge. Unlike ouzo, tsipouro keeps the aroma of primarily distilled products, due to its lower degree of distillation, while ouzo loses aroma.
Tsipouro is the most natural Greek drink of high quality, and I recommend that it is exactly what you must buy and take from Greece or enjoy it while you are on vacation.
About the other most famous Greek products you can find out here.