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Food

Recipes and Drinks Featuring Ouzo

November 18, 2022

The traditional way to enjoy ouzo is accompanied by friends sharing a variety of mezedes, appetizers that usually add up to more than a meal anyway. Ouzo also happens to be a versatile ingredient as well, appearing in savory and sweet recipes and imparting its delicious, unique flavor to some of the best known dishes in Greek cuisine. It also brings a special Greek touch to a variety of cocktails to enjoy at your next party.

Ouzo can be served on the rocks, straight with a cold glass of water, or as a shot, chilled until very cold. Adding water to ouzo will turn it cloudy due to the essential oil of anise, the licorice-flavor in ouzo, which is completely soluble in alcohol at 38 percent alcohol by volume or higher, but is not soluble in water. The droplets of the essential oil get caught in the water and create the cloudy or milky ‘ouzo’ effect.

Drinking ouzo ‘xerosfyri’ (literally ‘dry hammer’, which means drinking on an empty stomach) is frowned upon according to Greek custom and tradition. Eating mezedes with ouzo adds to the enjoyment of the flavors, but there is also a practical reason as well. Eating food while sipping ouzo lessens the intoxicating effect of the strong drink, so the alcohol doesn’t hit the drinker all at once. The foods often served with ouzo and most of Greece’s favorite spirits can be as simple as some feta, olives and a salad, or other classic Greek appetizers like kolokithokeftedes, grilled octopus, sardines, calamari, fried eggplant, and zucchini.

Kourambiedes are a traditional favorite this time of year. From Thanksgiving through Christmas, New Year’s, and Epiphany, there are plenty of holidays to bake up some of these special treats for your loved ones. The classic recipe includes a sprinkling of ouzo that adds a distinct aroma to the cookies. Be warned, the confectioners’ sugar will get everywhere, but the resulting cookies are worth the effort.

Try the following recipes and drinks that feature ouzo.

 

Pork Souvlaki Marinated with Ouzo

 

1/2 cup Greek extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup Greek honey

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon Greek dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary

1/2 teaspoon Greek sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup ouzo

2 pounds pork tenderloin, cut into 1-1/2-inch cubes

2 large green peppers, cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces

24 cherry tomatoes

1 large red onion, cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces

Tzatziki, optional

 

In a bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, honey, garlic, oregano, thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Pour 1/2 cup of the marinade into a shallow dish and stir in the ouzo. Add the pork and turn to coat in the marinade. Cover tightly and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. Cover and refrigerate the remaining marinade as well.

Drain the pork, discarding the used marinade from the dish. On 12 metal or wooden skewers that have been soaked in water for 15-20 minutes, alternately thread the marinated pork and the peppers, tomatoes, and onion. Grill uncovered over medium heat or broil 4 inches from heat until the pork is tender and the vegetables are crisp-tender about 15 minutes, turning occasionally and basting with the reserved marinade during the last 5 minutes of grilling. Serve with tzatziki, if preferred, and toasted pita.

 

Kourambiedes

 

2 cups unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

1/2 cup confectioners’ (powdered) sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup blanched almonds, chopped, toasted and set aside to cool

4-5 cups all-purpose flour

Ouzo for sprinkling

Confectioners’ sugan for coating

 

Beat the butter with the 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar until fluffy. Add 2 cups of the flour, the vanilla and the almonds and mix together. Add the rest of the flour, or as much as needed for the dough to form and not stick to your fingers, though not more than five cups. Do not overwork the dough or add too much flour, or you’ll end up with tough cookies. Form half-moon shapes and place on cookie sheets. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes until lightly golden.

Meanwhile, sprinkle a large piece of waxed paper with a generous amount of sifted confectioners’ sugar. When the cookies are done, remove them from the cookie sheet and immediately place them on the waxed paper covered with sugar. Sprinkle the cookies with ouzo at this point and then sift the sugar on top to coat the cookies completely. Once cooled, place the kourambiedes on a platter or store them in an airtight container. Makes about 50-60 kourambiedes.

Kourambiedes. Photo by Jastrow, Creative Commons license, via Wikimedia Commons
Kourambiedes. (Photo by Jastrow, Creative Commons license, via Wikimedia Commons)

Ouzo Cookies

 

1/2 cup Greek extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

1/4 cup ouzo

1/4 teaspoon ground anise seed

1 lemon (juice and zest)

3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

A pinch of Greek sea salt

 

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the oil, the sugar, and the eggs until light and fluffy. Add the ouzo, anise seed, lemon juice and zest, and continue beating to incorporate the ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and knead until the dough comes together and no longer clings to the bowl. Take a small piece of dough and shape into rings or braids. Place on a cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown. Place baked ouzo cookies on wire racks to cool completely before serving. Store in an airtight container.

Ouzo. (Photo by Eleni Sakellis)

Ouzo with Lemon and Mint

 

2 ounces ouzo

1 ounce fresh lemon juice

3 mint leaves

1 teaspoon Greek honey

3 ounces ice water or more as preferred

 

Pour the ouzo into a glass and add fresh lemon juice and the mint. Muddle to release the mint flavor. Add honey and stir to combine completely. Add as much or as little water as preferred and enjoy.

 

Greek Watermelon Mojito

 

1 1/2 oz. rum

4 pieces (1-inch squares) fresh watermelon or 1 oz. fresh watermelon puree

1 oz. fresh lime juice

3/4 oz. simple syrup

3/4 oz. Greek sparkling water, or Perrier

6 mint leaves and one large mint sprig

 

In a tall mixing glass, muddle a piece of watermelon and the mint leaves with the simple syrup. Add the rum and lime juice, then fill the glass with ice and shake vigorously. Strain over fresh ice into a glass. Top with Greek sparkling water or Perrier, and swirl gently. Garnish with the sprig of mint.

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