Ouzo is Greece’s national spirit, a strong anise flavoured drink, reminiscent of Greek summer. Greeks drink it along with good friends, either straight or watered down, with plenty of ice and always accompanied by delicious appetizers, called ‘meze’ in Greek.The strong flavour of the spirit actually ‘begs’ for a spicy, salty, or even sourish ‘meze’, usually served on little plates decorating the table’s surface right before you start eating and drinking.
Cheers, or as we say in Greek “Ya mas!”
Ouzo is served bulk or in a carafe, in tall spindly glasses. With its stimulating and strong anise aroma it promises to tickle your taste buds. Greeks are very fond of gathering with friends around a table eating, drinking, laughing and toasting each other. Ouzo simply completes the picture and helps out in getting the spirits higher and higher. Traditionally restaurants will bring you another meze every time you order a new carafe of ouzo. First servings usually consist of olives, cured sardines, some cheese, pickles or cold sliced meats pinned with toothpicks and at every round of ouzo the appetisers differ. Of course the variety of the meze may vary from one location to the other and from one season to the next. Flavours will differ between a mountainous village in winter and the ones you’ll taste in a seaside village in summer.
The ‘meze’ comeback
Ouzo drink is much better when it is accompanied by the little plates filled with delicious tidbits! Taste the seafood plates such as octopus (which are first hanged in the sun and then grilled on the barbeque), saganaki shrimps (tomato sauce, cheese and shrimps cooked in a pan), steamed mussels, marinated anchovies with parsley and garlic, fried calamari (squid) and a variety of shellfish served with lemon juice. Next on the menu is anything that is cured: sardines, mackerel, sliced meats (such as salamaki or pastourmas,) strong cheese (such as ladotyri, kefalotyri and grilled feta with tomato and hot pepper.) This ‘drinking-spree’ is without a doubt incomplete if you don’t accompany it with tzatziki (a creamy appetiser made with yogurt, cucumber and garlic), eggplant salad or tyrokafteri (creamed feta cheese with kerato spicy peppers.) If you can’t decide which one of all you want you can order a variety of the above mentioned ‘mezes’ and savour a little bit of everything!