Ouzo, Tsipouro and Mastika

Many cultures through most of their recorded history created various alcoholic beverages using herbs, fruits, roots, flowers and seeds, initially by extraction and fermentation, and later by distillation. Various flavours of a strong alcoholic drink based on the aniseed aromas are to be found all around the Mediterranean.

 Traditional and widely consumed Greek alcoholic beverages include the anise-flavoured ouzo, tsipouro (ouzo’s predecessor, whose Cretan variation is called tsikoudia, 40%–65% alcohol by volume), and local liquors, such as mastika (not to be confused with the homonymous anise-flavoured Bulgarian drink). Tsipouro doesn’t have to be anise flavoured, but ouzo sure does. Like any other anise-flavoured spirit, if you add a little water to ouzo, it’ll get cloudy. The most famous variations are the ouzo of the Eastern Aegean Islands, the tsipouro of the Thessaly region and the tsikoudia of Crete. In fact ouzo is considered an exclusively Greek drink and the European Union recognises ouzo, as well as tsipouro and tsikoudia, as products with a Protected Designation of Origin. The cultivation of anise in Lesvos and its neighbouring island of Limnos, and the production of mastic in nearby Chios provided excellent raw material for these Greek beverages. Mastika or mastiha liqueur (seasoned with mastic, a resin gathered from the mastic tree) produced on the island of Chios has also a Protected Designation of Origin in the European Union.
As ouzo and tsipouro are aperitifs, we recommend sipping them with mezedes or meze, the Greek variation of tapas, a selection of small dishes such as stuffed grape leaves, fried or grilled peppers, seafood, octopus, squid, eggplant, fresh, grilled or fried cheese and so many others served to accompany the distilled drinks.

 

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