Traditional Greek Beverages

Ouzo – the national drink of Greece

Ouzo is the most well known traditional beverage. Greeks adore it, and prefer it especially during the summer months, when they may enjoy it with company, during the afternoon after a day at the beach.

 

It is prepared exclusively within Greece through a distilled procedure of alcohol, water, anise, and other aromatic substances [usually cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg] It is difficult to determine when the production of ouzo first began, nevertheless we already know that already from the 19th century, quite a few areas within Greece had substantially developed the manufacture of distillery production.

The cost a bottle of ouzo is approximately 5 euro, whilst in taverns or restaurants it is served in a carafe which costs around 3 euro each.

Ouzo, which resembles water because it is colourless, is usually served as an appetizer. As it is a particularly strong spirit, many water it down. With contact with water, it becomes cloudy and turbid, more refreshing and its potency is reduced.

Greeks accompany ouzo drinking with their favourite appetizers. Many combine it with grilled octopus, cut into small pieces, as well as other seafood [such as anchovy, whitebait and sardines]. It is also preferred with the traditional Greek salad [tomato, cucumber, olives, feta cheese] and with an assortment of cheeses. A less common mix is ouzo with fried zucchini and egg-plant, or with pickles.

Brief details about Ouzo

  1. There are three versions about the naming of ouzo. In reference to the first, its name is derived from the phrase “uso di Massiglia,” or in other words, towards the use of Marseilles, where it once had trade relations. The second version refers to its origins in the ancient Greek verb, “ozo” [that is, I smell], whilst the third, and less likely version states that it is derived from the phrase “ouzo’ [that is, that one cannot live without ouzo]
  2. Ouzo contains 40% alcohol.
  3. Ouzo is also used as an ingredient in cocktails. It may be combined with orange juice or tomato juice and a dash of pepper.
  4. Ouzo may be combined with Greek coffee. Once the coffee is prepared in the usual manner [boiled in a “briki’ or traditional coffee pot, with sugar and water], a teaspoon of ouzo may be added.
  5. Ouzo which is produced in the South of Greece contains sugar, whilst alternatively in the North of Greece it is preferred significantly potent.
  6. Ouzo is an exclusive Greek product and is protected by law by the European Union.

There is an ouzo museum in Mytilini, Lesvos, at Ploumari, belonging to the Varvayianni family who are involved in its production. Exhibits within the museum include the first evaporators, which date back to 1858, tools and containers and bottles for its storing, photographs and books.

Ouzeri in Athens

  • Naxos: located in Psyrri. It provides a pleasant atmosphere with reasonable prices. It also serves tsipouro.
  • Marko Antonio: This is an ouzeri on the Piraeus coast [Akti Themistokleos No. 22]. It provides a lovely view, good food and prices.
  • Thomas: It is situated at the main square at Halandri. It is widely visited, and its prices are approximately 15 euro per person.
  • Athinaiko: Located in the centre of Athens, on Themistokleous street. It is a little on the expensive side. Closed on Sundays. Tel: 210- 3828484.
  • Mantho’s Steki: This is an ouzeri in Ano Patisia [Halepa Street No. 68] It provides a pleasing atmosphere with good prices. On Fridays and Saturdays, its patrons may enjoy live music.
  • Tsipouro – A really strong spirit

Tsipouro is a particularly favoured spirit of the Greeks. It is also renowned as tsikoudia and raki. It is a very strong spirit, produced through a very complicated distillery procedure of pomace [residue of the wine press] in Crete, Thessaly, Epirus and Macedonia. Alternatively, other fruits or nuts may be used [berries, sour apple, fig, quince and arbutus]. It represents a long tradition in Greece but it was legalized at the end of the 1980’s. In some particular parts, such as in Crete, it is drunk at all hours of the day. It is usually preferred before a meal.

The price of tsipouro varies from 5-9 euro. It is flavoured with anise or fennel, and is drunk either warm [at room temperature] or chilled. It is served with appetizers such as potatoes, stuffed vine leaves, olives, peppers and pickles. In some areas it is accompanied with seafood appetizers just as ouzo is.

Tsipouro:

  1. The word “tsipouro” initially referred to the pips of the grapes.
  2. Tsipouro contains 38-47% alcohol.
  3. Until 1988, the sale of distilled pomace [tsipouro] was illegal in Greece
  4. It is believed that the distillery of wine press residue is deep rooted and was common practice dating as far back as the Byzantine era.
  5. The Italians compounded grappa from distilled wine press residue, which resembles tsipouro. It the Middle East, there is also a similar beverage which is named arak.

“Tsipouradaka” in Athens:

  • The Voliotiko: Located on Mesoghion Street in Holargo. Its prices are quite reasonable. Tel: 210-6543594.
  • Rakosillektes: This is a tsipouradiko at Psyrri [Karaiskaki Street and Aisopou No. 2] with good prices. On the weekends, it is open also for lunch. Tel: 210 3222240.
  • The Voliotiko: A tsipouradiko in Thission [Erisihthonos Street No. 6 and Eptahalkou Street]. Prices range from 15-20 euro per person. Tel 3468315.
  • The Matinades: This is a tsipouradiko offering traditional local products from Crete. It is located in Paleion Phaleron [Zisimopoulou No. 79] It is open from 11 a.m. Tel 210 9419686.
  • Faros: This is located at Glyfada [Aretis and Antheon streets]. Its prices vary from 10-15 euro per person. Tel 210-9640389.

Rakadika in Rethymno, Crete

Rakomello, the type of drink preferred by young people

  1. It is prepared with raki, cinnamon and cloves which once heated, honey is added. It is served in a small glass, accompanied by a cinnamon stick.
  2. In winter it is drunk warm [at room temperature], whilst in the summer, chilled.
  3. It is the traditional beverage of Amorgos, and its visitors may find it in every tavern and restaurant.
  4. Rakomelo was used in the past in Crete, as a remedy for the common cold.
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