What began as a surreptitious search for an obscure wedding gift became a nifty find that renewed my wanderlust with a vengeance. Here’s hoping that Europe trips will soon be possible again for me, because tonight’s post features a tasty toast to Greece.
Chances are, you may not have heard of tsipouro, and to be perfectly honest, I hadn’t either until a couple of months ago. Quick quests in the world-wide-interwebz yielded some basics: it’s similar to Ouzo (another Greek, grape-based spirit), but also locally available, if not incredibly common here in Colorado.
Thankfully, I rolled well on the dice that day in July and managed to secure a bottle in under 48 hours from my neighborhood liquor store.
Some quick tsipouro facts:
- It’s made with grape leaves, pulp, skins, stems and seeds — essentially the leftovers from winemaking, known as pomace or marc.
- While distillers can use red or white grapes, the resulting spirit is clear and colorless.
- Tsipouro was commercially unavailable until 1990, and most distillers keep their recipes secret.
- Anise, one common flavor used in the second distillation, causes tsipouro to become milky or cloudy (like absinthe) when mixed with ice or water.
- According to Greek Voyager, the creation of tsipouro occurs immediately after wine grape harvest and crush during the fall season.
- Small glasses of the beverage are typically served alongside appetizers or mezes; it can also be used as a post-meal digestif.
- You’re supposed to sip tsipouro and never shoot it, per an interview on Culture Trip. The idea is that you take your time enjoying it with friends or family.
For a full, illustrated introduction on the production of tsipouro, check out the primer on Greek Gastronomy Guide here.
And now, tasting notes for my first tsipouro experience:
- Clear and colorless, as expected for this style of spirit.
- The aromas were pretty intense and included licorice (so, anise), dried fruit, fresh grapes, and a woody earthiness. Someone else in the group tasting this said it smelled “stemmy,” so I suppose like grape stems?
- On the palate, there’s definitely a hot kick of alcohol that I wasn’t ready for, but flavors still came through nicely. I found more dried fruit alongside dried herbs, and also a light creaminess and roundness to the finish that reminded me somewhat of brandy.
Would I try tsipouro again in the future? Absolutely, though I’d take the advice of experts and drink it alongside food next time. Without the benefit of something to temper its alcoholic heat, I had trouble finishing my small share. Further, I’d pour it over ice, as I understand that tsipouro often shows its best flavors when cold.
Now I wonder if I should try raki or ouzo (two other Greek distillates) next. What experiences have you had with them, readers? Worth tasting? Should I pair them with particular foods? Let me know, and I can post about my experiences here. 😁
Thanks for reading, everyone! Just as a note, there’s a lot of upheaval and crazy going on in my regular life at the moment, so I may not be able to handle more than one post each week for a little while. As always, let me know if there’s a particular wine I should try or a food experiment I simply must attempt!
Want to support my ongoing journey in food and wine? Check out the Donation page for ways you can help.