The early years
Tsipouro is a Greek alcoholic drink which was invented some seven centuries ago in the monasteries of Mount Athos. Tsikoudia or Raki in Crete is something similar, the main difference being that raki is a product of single distillation. Similar drinks in other countries, are the Italian Grappa and Arak in the Middle East. Tsipouro is mostly between 36-45 αlcoholic content. It should not be confused with ouzo, a drink with different preparation.
Production of tsipouro goes back many centuries, however, it is said that it began in the 14th century on Mount Athos by monks who lived there. Over the years it spread to different areas of Greece, mainly Macedonia, Epirus, Thessaly and Crete. Until the last decades of the 20th century,tsipouro was only produced at home, which means there was no industrial mass production. History tells us that a colorless spirit was produced and consumed each year across the Mediterranean.which was known by various names: ouzo, arak, grappa. Distilled from the by-products of wine, as if man wanted to exploit the vine as much as possible. Macedonia, Crete, Thessaly, Epirus and Peloponnese have the longest tradition in the production of tsipouro. Raw material for the production of tsipouro is the grape marc, the mass remaining after the compression of grapes, to produce wine. This mass consists of the skins of the grapes, the pips (seeds) and encompasses a percentage of unfermented grape (must) or even wine. Generally, the pips are 3-6%, peel 6-9% and the flesh 75-85% of this mass.
Tsipouro is produced by distillation of marc ie from rags (residues) of grapes left after pressing and extraction of the must for wine production. Distillation of whole grapes, or even wine, is also possible, in this case the yield is higher. Both white and red grapes may be employed. During distillation, various flavorings such as anise, fennel, etc. are sometimes added to the retort, along with the marc. In Crete they use walnut leaves. Anise is the cause of the "whitening" of tsipouro when water or ice is added. Tsipouro is often distilled for a second time, thus improving its quality. The flesh of the grape is made of solids at a percentage 0.5%. In order for marc to give alcoholic distillate it should firstly be fermented (not being completely drained), so that the sugars of the remaining grape turn into alcohol.
Tsipouro is served in small glasses and sometimes consumed by itself, however it is usually accompanied by appetizers. Chosen titbits for tsipouro are considered to be ..pastourmas, salted meats and olives. Ice an/or water are often added to the drink. In some particular monasteries of Mount Athos monks welcome visitors offering a drink of tsipouro and a delight, the combination of which relaxes muscles and provides energy.