An old Greek saying once said “ouzo makes the spirit” and Greeks know that to be especially true. Ouzo, known as Greece's national drink, is a clear and silky liqueur distilled from the remnants of grapes pressed for wine. Ouzo celebrates Greek culture and identifies with the Greek soul as well as hospitality. In 1856, alongside his family, Nicholas Katsaros, opened the first ouzo distillery which continues to produce ouzo and tsipouro to this day. Modern ouzo distillation dates back to the nineteenth century following Greek independence. The production of ouzo was centered on the island of Lesbos in the north Aegean sea, which still produces ouzo to this day. In the early twentieth century when absinthe fell into disfavor, ouzo, gaining popularity, rose to fill the gap. In 1932, a copper stills distillation method was developed and continues to be the standard method of production today. In 2006, ouzo received an EU-approval Protected Designation of Origin, ruling that ouzo could only be made in Greece.
Ouzo incorporates flavors such as anise, fennel, coriander, mastiha, and cloves depending on the area it is produced. The drink is typically served neat. Greeks add iced water to dilute the strength of the liqueur causing it to turn a milky white. Ouzo bars across Greece specialize in an array of different types of ouzo alongside mezethes or small plates. These savory small plates are an essential component to ouzo drinking.
In addition to sipping on ouzo along with mezes, the national drink of Greece has healing properties as well. It is known to ease an upset stomach, relieve a headache, and alleviate teething pains in infants. The terpenes in ouzo have anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidant activity protecting cells from disease. Similarly, ouzo has been known to alleviate symptoms of a cold or flu, treat tired muscles and aching joints, and alleviate trouble sleeping. Ouzo’s medicinal properties have been attributed to the variety of spices and herbs used to flavor this liqueur.
At Nerai, we offer Plomari Ouzo and Barbayanni Ouzo at our bar. Both Plomari and Barbayanni ouzo are produced in Greece and date back to the 1860’s. The ouzo is flavored by anise and other aromatic herbs and is served neat with a meal or even after a meal. Executive Chef, Moshe Grundman, uses ouzo in three of Nerai’s dishes. Our freshly baked Spinach Pies with spinach, artichoke, dill and feta cheese are served over an ouzo yogurt. Our Daurade Crudo with fresh daurade is served with lemon zest, fresh thyme and a mint ouzo fluid gel, and red pepper and lime zest. Our Fig and Halloumi Salad featuring fennel, mache greens, fresh figs, toasted hazelnuts, and grilled halloumi cheese is drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, ouzo, and a balsamic vinaigrette. Last, our Hokkaido Scallops, are served with an ouzo honey glazed pork belly, sunchokes, and rainbow cauliflower puree. Whether sipping our ouzo at the bar or at the table as you indulge in our Greek cuisine make sure to partake in the customary toast - stin uyeia sou - to your health!