Greek culture is based on a few things – rich history, mythology, religion, delicious food, and most importantly – good alcohol. The second you step onto the Island of the Winds, you will encounter locals offering you ouzo, but what is ouzo? Here is everything you need to know about this delicious drink.

What Is Ouzo? Here’s Everything You Need to Know About the Best Drink in Greece

Greece is well known for its culture and traditions. Some things are sacred in this sunny country, including people’s drinking habits. Alcohol is as important to their culture as Greek food or religion, so if you don’t like the sound of clinking glasses – this is not the summer destination for you.

However, if you do appreciate a nice drink and you want to immerse yourself in Greek culture as much as possible, you need to try ouzo – the one and only national drink of Greece. There are even local spots that specialize in serving ouzo in a traditional way, called ouzeries.

Ouzo traces its roots all the way back to the late 1800s when the first ouzo distillery was created in Tyrnavos. Ever since, it’s become a staple in every Greek household and the most popular refreshing drink to have on a hot summer day. It’s the most popular alcohol in the entire country, and you can find it in every shop, cafe, restaurant, and beach bar.

What Is Ouzo Made Of, and What Does It Taste Like?

It seems that everybody in Greece loves this drink, but what is ouzo made from? Ouzo is a traditional Greek alcoholic drink made out of pure ethyl alcohol, grapes, and different kinds of flavoring such as anise, fennel, cardamom, cloves, coriander, and so on. It’s made in large copper stills and distilled in a special way.

Before we get into the intricate flavor of this drink or you try to order an entire bottle, you should know that ouzo is very strong, with as much as 50% alcohol content. In comparison, vodka has only 40%, so you can imagine that ouzo will give you a pretty strong kick. What can we say, Greeks love their alcohol, so you may want to look up some hangover cures just to be safe for the following day.

However, don’t get scared by the alcohol content, it’s actually very sweet, almost with a black licorice-y taste, but it is very strong, so it may not be for the lightweights. This drink is mostly clear in color, but it does react if you mix it with water or when it comes into contact with ice and turns into a slightly cloudy, milky white color.

Are Ouzo and Raki the Same?

When you stumble upon a classic Greek taverna, you will notice locals ordering ouzo and raki all the time. But are these two drinks the same, and if not, what is the difference? Let’s start off by acknowledging the fact that ouzo and raki, although they might seem similar in color and presentation, are completely different drinks. They will both be served to you in a smaller shot glass, they are both made out of wine production remains, and both are made locally, but they are very different in taste and strength. Raki can have an alcohol percentage of more than 60%, and it’s usually less sweet and stronger in taste.

How Do You Drink Ouzo? Make an Easy Holiday Cocktail Recipe, or Drink It the Traditional Greek Way With a Stronger Kick?

If you’re wondering where and when it is appropriate to order ouzo, you should know that it is traditionally ordered in the later hours of the day, usually before dinner, as an aperitif. Where there is ouzo, there has to be a plate of meze – small Greek appetizers such as olives, cheese, tomato, or other kinds of small finger food.

It’s not meant to be taken as a shot – you’re supposed to sip it slowly as the conversation flows and enjoy its distinctive flavor notes. People usually serve it simply over ice, and that, along with meze, is the traditional way of drinking it, and it’s considered to be a social norm. However, ouzo has started making its way into the cocktail world as well, mostly as a replacement for absinthe or sambuca.

Greek taverna by the water
Ouzeries are Greek bars that specialize in serving ouzo

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