The early years
The production of ouzo in Greece started in the mid 19th century, in Kalamata and Tirnavos. Ouzo began as "re-boiled" tsipouro. However its excellent quality increased the demand so that around the 1920's (when Greece experienced significantly decreased grape production due to a disease that insulted the Greek vineyard, as well as the war) the distillers began to resort to other practical ways and some even ceased to use anise to flavour ouzo. Nowadays, the production of ouzo is done using the traditional recipe of Ouzo, based on anise seeds.
Ouzo is an evolved descendant of marc distillate and owes its organoleptic characteristics to the herbs used to flavour it. The Mediterranean area is rich in plants and perfumes. Thus, anise «Pimpinella anisum», fennel «Foeniculum vulgare miller», star anise, mastic, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, angelica root, lime, cardamom (kakoules), mint, etc. . are added to the stills to refine the distillate. Ouzo is classified as anis, ie spirits with aniseed flavor. Most anis drinks are made extracting first the aromas from the seeds with water, and then add it to the alcohol solution. Ouzo, traditionally, receives the fragrances by codistillation of the seeds in a solution of water and alcohol
It is said that the name comes from the following incident: an Italian (or an Ionian based) commercial company had packed one tsipouro lot of excellent quality and very rich in anise. All cases were marked «USO MASSALIA», meaning "For use in Marseille". This became a "slogan" and for a long time it meant very good tsipouro. The slogan was soon shortened ("Marseille" was cut). Much later ouzo was bottled as a separate spirit. Ouzo - unlike tsipouro - is only a small part - grape distillate. It is an industrial mixture of pure alcohol, water and flavouring, primarily anise. Under Regulation 1576/89 the European Union, Article 1, to be called an ouzo it must:
1. be produced in Greece (designation of origin).
2. be flavoured by soaking or by distillation with anise seeds. Optionally with fennel, mastic and other herbs. The percentage of volume flavoured by distillation must be at least 20%. This does not mean that 20% comes from the distillation of marc, but that distilled alcohol draws the aroma of herbs.
Ouzo is usually accompanied by snacks (meze) like salted fish, octopus, salads, etc. It is served in small or thin and tall glasses. Cool water and/or ice can be added. Having added the water the drink exhibits characteristic whitish color due to the anise it contains. Attention never keep in the fridge, just add water or ice cubes.