Ouzo – the Distinctively Greek Aperitif


Credit: Dominic Lockyer /

Like moussaka, Greek salad, stuffed grape leaves, and Feta cheese, ouzo automatically brings on thoughts of Greece. Made from pressed grapes, berries, various herbs and spices, ouzo is Greece’s national drink.

How Ouzo Came to Be

The companies that produce ouzo each have their own closely guarded recipe for this drink, but in varying amounts, the ingredients include mint, wintergreen, fennel, hazelnut, and of course, anise. On October 25, 2006, ouzo became a product with a Protected Designation of Origin, and only Greece and Cyprus have had the exclusive right to use the name ouzo.

This drink was fist brewed in the 14th century by monks who were making tsiporo, which is distilled from the freshly pressed juice of grapes. This juice, also called must, contains the fruit’s seeds, skin, and even the stems. It is said that some of the wine brewed in the Mt. Athos monastery was flavored with anise, and eventually this version was named ouzo.

The anise in this drink made it similar in flavor to absinthe, a drink that was highly popular, particularly among the French in the 1800s. Like absinthe, ouzo has a licorice-like taste. When absinthe was banned in the early 1900s, ouzo became a natural substitute. The rest, as they say, is history. [Read more…]

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