The country of Greece is known for its beautiful coasts, Mediterranean diet, ancient Greek landmarks, and picturesque beach resorts.
However, if you haven’t traveled to Greece yet, you may not be familiar with its most popular, exclusive drink: Ouzo. On any Holland America cruise to Greece, you’re bound to find Ouzo on every shelf and in every café.
So, what exactly is this delicacy, and what’s so special about it?
Ouzo Has A Rich, Exclusive History
You may have never heard of Ouzo before (pronounced oo-zoh) because it is only produced in Greece and Cyprus. Both countries have exclusive rights over its production and distribution, which is recognized by the European Union.
Any Ouzo you find outside of Greece and Cyprus has been exported, so you’ll find that Greek citizens take enormous pride in the drink, as its heavily immersed in their culture.
Ouzo production didn’t take off until the 18th century following Greece’s independence from the Ottoman Empire. The first Ouzo distillery was founded in Tyrnavos in 1856, and the drink became more popular than absinthe as its smoother, more aromatic flavor stole the hearts of many. Since the surge in production, Ouzo has remained a staple in Greek culture. Today, the best Ouzo comes from the town of Plomari on the island of Lesvos.
Licorice Lovers, Rejoice!
What exactly does Ouzo taste like? Ouzo begins as a distilled spirit from pressed grape skins, herbs, and berries. The most common flavoring is anise, which has a similar flavor to licorice and fennel.
Additional spices such as cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, and cloves are added depending on the recipe. These recipes, mind you, are closely guarded by distillery owners and producers who have passed down these techniques for decades.
The Ouzo is distilled in copper stills, starting at 96% alcohol by volume. After the distillation process, it is reduced to 80% alcohol, so it is still very strong and is certainly not a drink to mess with. Ouzo is typically served in a small glass with ice cubes, or mixed gently with water to reduce the alcohol content.
The water causes the drink to turn an opaque, cloudy color due to the anise oil in the drink reacting to the water.
The Fine Art of Drinking Ouzo
Ouzo is such a special drink that is must be given the proper attention during consumption.
Due to the high alcohol content, Ouzo should be consumed slowly and deliberately. The Greek tradition is to pair your Ouzo with a plate of appetizers called mezedes. This plate consists of a variety of Mediterranean-inspired foods, such as sardines, fried zucchini, olives, feta cheese, clams, and salad. Go to any Greek café, and you’ll surely find Ouzo on the menu paired with a plate of mezedes.While eating and drinking, it’s only best to enjoy your gastronomy with the people you love. Sitting around a dinner table or an outdoor café with friends, family, or your significant other is exactly how you should be enjoying your Ouzo. The Ouzo effects are usually delayed, so drinking slowly allow you to feel the sensation gradually for a relaxed, enjoyable meal.
You can sip, nibble, sip, nibble some more, and take in your surroundings with the people you love. This is truly the essence of the Greek spirit.
How Can I Find the Best Ouzo?
Even in Greece you’ll find some knockoff Ouzo bottles on the shelves made from cheaper ingredients.
You can find spectacular island brews from Plomari and Mini everywhere, so look for where the brand is produced before buying. Or, you can go directly to the distilleries themselves! One of the most popular locations is Plomari Ouzo Distillery, featuring their “World of Ouzo”.
They go through the entire process, from picking the finest ingredients from the fields to bottling and packaging at the very end. Similarly, the Karonis family in charge of the Nafplio distillery shows how sourcing local ingredients gives Ouzo its richest flavor.
It’s something you don’t want to miss.
[su_button url=”http://www.vacation.com” target=”blank” background=”#4cd00e” size=”8″ center=”yes”]Find a travel agent near you to plan your cruise[/su_button]