Ouzo Traditional Aperitif | Lesbos | The Purely Divine Unmatched Quality
Updated: Sep 20
George Papadellis | SG Head
with some good tips from AI
Ouzo, the traditional drink, is one of the most popular alcoholic beverages of Greece. It is a clear, anise-flavored drink, with a taste close to pastis and sambuca, that is usually served as an aperitif, and often accompanies meze, the small plates of Greek cuisine. While ouzo is produced all over Greece, Lesvos is particularly well-known for its high-quality ouzo. In this article, we explore the history, production, and culture surrounding ouzo in Lesvos.
Ouzo has its roots in tsipouro (the 2nd most famous Greek anise-flavoured aperitif), said to be the work of some 14th-century monks on Mount Athos. Modern ouzo distillation started in the 19th century after Greek independence. The first ouzo distillery was founded in Tyrnavos in 1856. The largest producers today are located in Lesvos (Barbayanni, Pitsiladi), both in Plomari village. Ouzo is usually mixed with water, becoming cloudy grey white and served with ice cubes in small glasses. It is usually served with small fish, olives, feta cheese.
The History of Ouzo
The history of ouzo production in Lesvos dates back to the 19th century when the island was under Ottoman rule. The Ottomans brought aniseed, the primary flavoring ingredient of ouzo, from their native lands, and the Greeks started experimenting with it to create a unique drink. The first recorded ouzo distillery in Lesvos was established in 1856 by Nikolaos Plomariou, and since then, the town of Plomari, located on the southern coast of Lesvos, has become the center of ouzo production on the island. In 2006, ouzo won the right to be an exclusively Greek product (Protected Designation of Origin), which prohibits European makers other than Greece and Cyprus from using the name. In Plomari village, there is also the ouzo museum.
The Production of Ouzo
The production of ouzo in Lesvos is a meticulous and time-consuming process. First, the aniseed is cleaned, sorted, and soaked in water to extract its essential oils. Then, the alcohol, usually made from fermented grapes or grain, is distilled in copper stills, mixed with water and the anise extract, and then aged in oak barrels for several months to develop its flavor and aroma. The quality of the water used in the production process is crucial, and the island's natural springs provide excellent water for ouzo production.
The Culture of Ouzo
Ouzo is more than just a drink in Lesvos; it is part of the island's culture and way of life. Ouzo is often consumed with meze, small plates of food that range from seafood to vegetables, cheese, and meat. It is a social drink, and sharing a glass of ouzo with friends or family is a common way to celebrate special occasions or just enjoy a relaxed evening. Ouzo is also an essential part of Lesvos's traditional festivals, and it is served in large quantities during the annual Ouzo Festival held in Plomari in July.
A Symbol of Hospitality
In conclusion, ouzo is an integral part of Lesvos's cultural heritage, and the island's ouzo distilleries produce some of the finest ouzo in Greece. The combination of high-quality aniseed, pure water, and traditional distilling methods creates a drink that is unique in flavor and aroma. Ouzo is not just a drink; it is a symbol of hospitality, socializing, and celebration in Lesvos. So, if you ever find yourself on the island, make sure to try a glass of ouzo with some meze, and experience the true taste of Lesvos.