What is Ouzo

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Ouzo is a staple of Greek life. With its unique flavor and comforting traditions, you’ll find many uses for this very special beverage.

What is Ouzo?

Ouzo is an anise-flavored dry alcoholic beverage, traditional to the Greeks. It is often referred to as the ‘national liquor’ of Greece.

The first distillery for this alcohol was established in 1856 in the town of Tirnavos and still thrives today. In 2006, this liquor received Protected Designation of Origin status from the EU, in recognition of its quality and Grecian roots. Today it remains a symbol of Greek culture, invoking memories of seaside dinners and boisterous nights with family and friends.

Nutrition Facts & Alcohol Content

To be considered as ouzo, the liquor must be at least 37.5% alcohol by abv (75 proof), although most are around 42% (85 proof). Each ounce of this alcohol contains roughly 100 calories.

Two glasses of ouzo served with salad and nuts on a table near the swimming pool

Ouzo is a sweet and strong alcoholic beverage. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

What Does Ouzo Look Like?

In the bottle, it is a clear liquor. Since anise is not soluble, once water is added for sipping, the alcohol becomes a milky color.

What Is It Made Of?

The primary liquor is distilled from the grape mash leftover from wine production. A neutral grain spirit may also be added. All types are flavored with anise (known best for black licorice), which imparts its unique flavor.

Is Ouzo Gluten-free?

Pure grape ouzo is gluten-free. However, neutral grain spirits distilled from wheat may contain some traces of gluten protein that can affect those with gluten intolerance.

Does Ouzo Go Bad?

The ethanol in this alcohol prevents it from ever becoming toxic. However, oxygen and light can change the flavor if left open and exposed to air.

A capped bottle in the cabinet will last for years or even decades.

How to Drink Ouzo?

There are a few different ways to drink ouzo, they include the following:

  • The best way to drink this alcohol is with food.
  • Ouzeries in Greece will serve it with Mezedes, or small dishes of octopus, olives, fresh bread, and cheese.
  • You can also mix cold water into your liquor and sip this beverage along with fresh Greek snacks.

Side Effects & Risks

Alcohol consumption, if done in an excessive manner, can lead to short-term health risks such as violence and injuries as well as long-term health risks such as addiction, alcohol abuse, and chronic diseases. Laws, rules, and regulations regarding alcohol consumption and purchase vary in different countries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US, people who should not drink alcohol include women who are pregnant, individuals younger than 21 years of age, and people who are recovering from alcoholism or cannot control the amount they drink. Also, it should be avoided by people who are planning to drive or any other activity that required focus and skill.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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