Ouzo Essential Info

  • Color: Clear; opaque when water is added
  • Region: Since 2006, Ouzo can only be made in Greece
  • ABV: Minimum 37.5% ABV, often 40% ABV
  • Aged: Can be barrel aged to soften, not aged for long periods
  • Made from: Grapes, anise
  • Commercial Examples: Metaxa, Ouzo 12, Pilavas, Barbayannis
  • Popular Cocktails: More often taken straight

Ouzo is not trying to lie to you about what it is. Assertively anise-flavored, grape-based, clear-until-it-turns-cloudy, ouzo is a distinctively flavorful, and distinctively Greek drink. Distilled from a grape base (called tsipoura) that’s flavored with herbs (wintergreen, mint, fennel) and anise and spices in copper stills to 96% ABV, it’s flavored assertively (the star is anise, with costars like fennel, coriander, cloves, cinnamon, and star anise. Served in small glasses, it has a funny habit of turning white when you add water—called the “louche” effect, due to the anise oil. It does not, however, lose any of its licorice potency. So there might be a tendency to shoot ouzo back, but at that point, why bother? Your best option is to order it with a cold water back and add some of the water to the ouzo, let it turn milky white, and sip. Ouzo is often taken with snacks, or mezedes, in Greece, as an accompaniment (or precursor) to food.