The history of ouzo is somewhat murky, but some claim it may date back in one form or another to ancient times. Its precursor is tsipouro (or as it is known by Easterners as raki), a drink distilled throughout the Byzantine [1] and later Ottoman Empires, often in those days of quality approaching moonshine (similar liquors in Turkey and many Arab countries still go by that name).

Modern ouzo distillation largely took off in the 19th century following Greek independence, with much production centered on the island of Lesbos, which claims to be the originator of the drink and remains a major producer. In 1932, ouzo producers developed the method of distillation using copper stills, which is now considered the canonically proper method of production. One of the largest producers of ouzo today is Varvayiannis (?a?ßa???????), located in the town of Plomari in the southeast portion of the island. While another producer on the mainland of Greece is Ch. Pavlides Brothers. (Older people in Lesbos, still refer to ouzo as “raki”)

Commonly, but not at all traditional in the western world, ouzo is served with cola either in premixed cans or bottles or simply mixed to the desired taste.

On October 25, 2006 Greece won the right to label ouzo as an exclusively Greek product. The European Union now recognizes ouzo, as well as the Greek drinks of tsipouro and tsikoudia, as ‘geographically protected’ products . The ‘geographically protected’ designation prohibits makers from outside of Greece to label their products with this name. Now, makers outside of Greece will need to use names like “Greek-style ouzo” instead of simply calling the product ouzo. This type of labeling can already be seen in other ‘geographically protected’ products like Feta cheese. If the Feta cheese is produced outside of Greece, it’s labeled as “Greek-style feta”.

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