Friday, March 21, 2014

Toasting the Greek Spirit

A sip of Ouzo Sweetens the Day.

Executive summary by darmansjah

Tasting of Anise with subtle hints of cardamom and clove, the fiery national tipple of Greece known as ouzo is meant to be sipped siga (slowly) with a bit of food and in the company of friends. While some drink ouzo straight up, most add a splash of water, turning it cloudy. Greeks traditionally toast a bridal couple or a newborn with ouzo. Many use it as folk remedy, rubbing it into aching joints. But most commonly people sip ouzo, as one adage says, “to slow the pace and sweeten the day.” Like the drink, ouzo’s history is hazy. 

According to some, the product originated in the early 19th century in the silk-producing town of Tirnavos in northeastern Greece. There, fans of the spirit declared it smooth as “USO Massailas,” the name used for premium silk bound for market in Marseille. Others argue ouzo comes from the island of Lesobs, where its production is centered today. Travel Greece and you’ll find an ouzeri in nearly every community. In Piraeus, Athens’s port since classical times, one of the oldest ouzo bars is To Steki tou Artemi. Beneath walls cluttered with vintage ads, patrons drink ouzo while playing backgammon and arguing politics. In Plaka, an ancient neighborhood near the Acropolis, Sholarhio is a favorite of academics and artist. Some Greeks say, “Ouzo makes the spirit.” Linger over a glass on the ivy-covered terrace at Sholarhio, and you may agree.

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