Ouzo’s predecessor is tsipouro, which is basically Greek grappa. However, the difference is that right after distillation, the base spirit used to make ouzo is higher in alcohol than the base spirit used to make tsipouro. Additionally, tsipouro doesn’t have to be anise flavored, but ouzo sure does. Ouzo is made from a base spirit of grapes before being flavored with anise – the same distinct taste found in absinthe. Ouzo’s history is surprisingly short: in 1856, Nicholas Katsaros and his family opened the first ouzo distillery, which still produces ouzo today. In 2006, recognizing the beverage’s uniquely Greek heritage, the government ruled that ouzo can only be made in Greece, receiving an EU-approved Protected Designation of Origin.
Like any other anise-flavored spirit, if you add a little water to ouzo, it’ll get milky. That’s called louching, or the ouzo effect. Ouzo is full of lip-smacking flavors (like fennel, coriander, and cloves), so much so that it delivers quite a taste punch. To balance out all those flavors, we recommend sipping ouzo with a bit of food. Think stuffed grape leaves, eggplant, and fresh cheese. Make sure you have some flatbread handy.
Head to your local liquor store and explore your ouzo selections. You’ll find it next to the sambuca and absinthe. If you’re feeling brave, set it on fire. Just kidding, please don’t do that.