OUZO: THE LOCAL GREEK SPIRIT
Out of all the unique spirits around the world, Ouzo is one that takes on a life of its own depending on where it’s made. It can only be made in Greece and is usually brewed by very small local operations. There are only a few major distributors of Ouzo, with the rest being made either by café owners or other families living around some of the Greek islands like Lesvos.
This is a very strong spirit. It has high alcohol content and most people will water it down as they drink it. Many people like to enjoy Ouzo at one of the small local cafes with a plate or two of mezedes, the local appetizer-like snacks similar to Spanish tapas.
Ouzo can be made in 4 different types, one of which does not require any brewing. While flavors are not usually consistent from one brand to the next, the one thing that almost all brewers put in their Ouzo is a locally grown herb that also gives its licorice-like flavors to the spirit absinthe.
BEST BRANDS OF OUZO
As one of the larger Ouzo producers in Greece, the company which makes this brand is one of the few that ships internationally as well as to different areas all around Greece. It’s been held in the same family since it was created 150 years ago, and traditional brewing methods have been used since then. For that reason it’s easy enough to find a bottle of Barbayanni Ouzo. You’ll be able to taste the yummy and well-balanced mix of secret ingredients in this smooth and well known Greek spirit.
This is another large international and national brand of Ouzo. It’s got a smoother and calmer taste than many other Ouzo brands that you can enjoy more heavily. You can recognize Plomari Ouzo because of the distinctive cork on the bottle. No other brands of Ouzo use corks to seal their bottles closed.
One of the smaller, local brands, Sans Rival gives you a complex mix of flavors that works well with the fresh seafood dishes served around the Greek island of Lesvos.
Although this used to be a big hit in Greece, the increased exportation of it and commercialization seems to have changed the taste to fit the palates of those outside of Greece. If you’re not used to Ouzo and want to start, you might consider picking up a bottle of Ouzo 12 to get yourself acquainted with the strong spirit before you try any other types.
You’ll find the flavors of this Ouzo a bit stronger and better blended than some other types because it is a distilled Ouzo. When you distill this spirit it ends up with a much softer mouthfeel, a smoother texture, and a wonderfully tasty mix of local flavors. Sometimes it can be difficult to find this brand as the demand is high and the company producing it does not make enough to cover all the countrywide demand for the delicious beverage.
Originating on Lesvos, this is one of the other popular brands of Ouzo among the Greeks. You can find it in many different cafes around the country and probably in some places internationally as well. It’s a milder Ouzo with less intense and harsh flavors and a smooth feel. This drink goes down easy and can be sipped well during mealtime.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST TASTING OUZO
Order your mezedes and sit down for a nice glass of Greek Ouzo. If you’re going to Greece, you’ll find an enormous selection to choose from based on the preference of the local café visitors and owners, but if you’re buying it anywhere else in the world it will probably be narrowed down to some of the most popular brands. With this beverage it’s best to just pick one and dive in, as there are not always very accurate descriptions about what is in the drink and what it will taste like. Remember to water it down as you drink it, since this is a very strong spirit that tends to hit you all at once.