We'll Drink to That: Greece Will Promote Ouzo, Distilled Spirits


(Photo by Eurokinissi/Vaios Hasialis)

ATHENS – Opa! While drinkers around the world may recognize ouzo, the dry, licorice-flavored aperitif as Greece's national drink, the country's distillers of spirits are planning a campaign to introduce them to related varieties like tsipouro, masticha and raki.

Seeking exports and a bigger overseas market, the plan is being pushed by the Enterprise Greece agency and the Greek Federation of Spirit Producers (SEAOP) and will include a pavilion set up at the International Bar Convent Berlin exhibition in October 2019, along with participation at the Prowein exhibition, also in Germany, with the a “spirits bar,” said Kathimerini.

The aim is to show off the potent drinks that mostly are drunk straight, but also as cocktail mexes, inviting top “mixologists” to Greek distilleries to see – make that taste – for themselves what the potential is.

Ouzo is often seen in movies about Greece as what Greeks drink although many prefer tsipouro or raki, which will pick you up and knock you down if you're not careful.

The transparent ouzo often is drunk with an ice cube, which will turn the sweet liquor white and it can sneak up on you with its powerful effect. Ouzo has its roots in tsipouro, which is said to have been the work of a group of 14th-Century monks on Mount Athos. One version of it was flavoured with anise, coming to be called ouzo.

Modern ouzo distillation accelerated at the beginning of the 19th Century following Greek independence. The first ouzo distillery was founded in Tyrnavos in 1856 by Nikolaos Katsaros, giving birth to the famous ouzo Tyrnavou. When absinthe fell into disfavor in the early 20th century, ouzo was one of the products whose popularity rose to fill the gap.