Ouzo is a globally famous Greek drink-aperitifIt is an anise-flavored liqueur that is widely consumed throughout the country. Ouzo is exported throughout the world and Ouzo is one of Greece’s most sought after products.
The name dates back to the late 19th century, but is of uncertain origin. Many claim the history of ouzo – in one form or another – may date back to ancient times. Its precursor is raki, a drink distilled throughout the Byzantine and later Ottoman Empires.
The production of ouzo began at Greece in the mid 1850’s and flourished at the end of the 19th century the Plomari in Lesvos. Modern ouzo distillation largely took off in the 19th century following Greek independence, with much production centered on the island of Lesbos which claims to be the originator of the drink and remains a major producer. In 1932, ouzo producers developed the method of distillation using copper stills, which is now considered the canonically proper method of production.
Ouzo starts as a strong spirit made from pressed grapes or raisins. Other herbs and berries may also be added at the fermentation stage. The distinctive smell of ouzo comes from the addition of anise (or star anise) as a flavouring, but other ingredients, varying according to the producer, are also used; common ingredients include coriander, cloves, angelica root, liquorice, mint, wintergreen, fennel, hazelnut, cinnamon and lime blossom. The alcohol and flavourings are placed in warmed copper stills and distilled; higher-quality ouzos may be distilled several times. The resulting spirit is stored for a few months, and then diluted, usually to around 40% ABV.
When water or ice is added to ouzo, which is clear in color, it turns milky white; this is because the etheric oils are soluble in alcohol but not water. Diluting the spirit to less than around 40% ABV causes it to separate into an aqueous and an organic phase, whose fine droplets scatter the light.
The crystals sometimes seen in ouzo served cold are crystalline anethole, the constituent of anise aroma.
All the visitors of Greece have tasted ouzo and have transferred to their countries their best impressions it.
Ouzo drinking for Greeks is an art, and also a way of life. In modern Greece ouzeri can be found in nearly all cities, towns, and villages. Every cafe in Greece from the most modern to the most traditional, serves ouzo. The key to drinking ouzo is to eat mezedes– appetizers such as octopus, salad, sardines, calamari, fried zucchini, and clams, among others. It is traditionally slowly sipped (usually mixed with water or ice) together with mezedes shared with others. These keep the effects of the alcohol from overwhelming the person who can sit and drink slowly for hours in a profoundly calm state of mind.
This well known aperitif, according to the European Union Law (1576/1989) has been accepted and established as a Greek product, and so Greece is the only country that has the right to produce it. Nowadays in Greece there are almost 300 different ouzo producers, with exports of € 2,4 millions of value.
Ouzo is one of the quality Greek products that will be denatured at the 1st International Conference on Greek Gastronomy and the Greek Food and Beverage Industry.
By Dermitzaki Maria