What is Ouzo?


What is Ouzo? This spirit or liquor which is symbolic of Greek culture, and is also consumed widely in Cyprus. The drink, also nicknamed to farmako, has a distinctive anise taste and can be found in bars and restaurants all around Greece. In fact, Greece and Cyprus are the only countries which are allowed to produce the drink under an EU ruling passed in the 90s.

It is said that the drink was invented by a group of monks back in the 14th century at holy Mount Athos, though it first attained its huge popularity between the 19th and 20th centuries as Absinthe fell out of favour.

So how do I drink my Ouzo? Traditionally, Ouzo is drank with water, in a similar way to scotch or another whiskey might be, and can also be taken straight from shot glasses. If mixed with water, the drink goes cloudy (don’t worry, this is normal), and is arguably most delicious in its h20 mixture! Another popular and more recent way of drinking Ouzo is in cocktails, which you will find across certain bars in the more touristy areas of Greece.

Due to the anise flavour that Ouzo possesses, it is often compared to the Italian spirit Sambouca, but this is not the only drink with similarities, Turkish Raki and French Pastis also share similar flavours as the drink, though are technically not the same.

In most Greek eateries, it is tradition to drink Ouzo as an aperitif with any starters you might have with a meal and indeed all through the evening! They usually drink it with water and served over ice, again, baring similarities to how we might drink scotch.

Can I buy it in the UK or USA? This might prove difficult, but it can be done! Due to the restrictions in place on producing Ouzo anywhere other than Greece and Cyprus, it is often hard to source Ouzo, but you may be able to buy it online and there are certain liquor and alcohol specialists that will import international spirits, though you might pay a premium. Perhaps it is best to visit and try it out first hand!

The Ouzo effect. Contrary to what you might initially think, the ouzo effect is not  how you might act after having a few too many. Because of the way Ouzo is produced, it creates a strange, cloudy effect when mixed with water, explained brilliantly here. It might get used to looking like something that would look more in-place going through your washing machine.

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