What Does the Aperitif Ouzo Smell Like?

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By: Tom Valenti


If you want an immersive experience in Greek culture without ever leaving your residence, you can try aperitif ouzo – a traditional Greek aperitif. But what does the aperitif ouzo smell like? To put it simply, aperitif ouzo has a strong anise aroma. 

Read on to explore the secrets behind the delicious smell of ouzo.


What is the History of Aperitif Ouzo? 

What is the History of Aperitif Ouzo

Aperitif ouzo has a long and rich history that dates back to ancient Greece. The exact origins of ouzo are unclear, but it is believed to have been developed in the 19th century on the island of Lesbos, in central Greece. 

Initially, ouzo was made by distilling grape must or wine with anise and other herbs and spices. However, when Greece’s vineyards were devastated by phylloxera in the late 19th century, producers began using grains such as wheat or barley as a base for their ouzo instead.

Over time, ouzo became increasingly popular throughout Greece and was often enjoyed as a pre-dinner drink. In the early 20th century, the Greek government began regulating the production and sale of ouzo, and the drink was officially recognized as a unique product of Greece in 2006. Ouzo remains an important and beloved part of Greek culture and captures the Greek spirit (kefi) more than anything else.

What is Aperitif Ouzo?

Aperitif ouzo is a traditional Greek spirit made by distilling grapes liquid juice that is left from winemaking and then adding herbs and spices such as anise, coriander, and fennel.

It has a distinctive anise aroma and licorice-like flavor and is usually served neat with ice cubes before meals as an appetizer, hence the name ‘aperitif’.

What Does Aperitif Ouzo Taste Like?

Aperitif ouzo has a sweet and licorice-like taste. Initially, it can have a sharp bite due to the alcohol content, but this fades away quickly. The aftertaste is slightly sweet and leaves a pleasant, warming sensation in the mouth.

What Does Aperitif Ouzo Smell Like?

Aside from its enticing flavor, this drink has a distinct aroma associated with it that can be described as pungent yet subtly sweet. So, what does aperitif ouzo smell like exactly? The combination of spices used to make aperitif ouzo gives it its distinctive aroma and flavor. The main flavor smell of this wine is anise-flavor, which smells like hints of licorice and fennel. It also has subtle and complex notes of spices such as coriander, Greek mastic, mint, or eucalyptus.

Also, due to the fact that ouzo is usually distilled in copper stills, the finished product has a nutty and metallic aroma.

However, the smell of aperitif ouzo differs each time based on how it is served. When served neat, it has a powerful aroma that is sure to fill the room. On the other hand, the essential oils in Ouzo are not water-soluble. Therefore, when served with ice or water, the aroma is released into the air easier, making the wine more intense and fragrant. 

How is Aperitif Ouzo Made?

Aperitif ouzo is made by distilling a mixture of grains, such as wheat or barley, with herbs and spices. The exact recipe and production methods can vary between different brands and regions of Greece, but the following is a general overview of the process:

  • The grains are ground into fine flour and then mixed with water to create a mash. The mash is then cooked and left to cool before yeast is added to begin fermentation.
  • Once the mash has fermented, it is distilled to separate the alcohol from the solids and impurities.
  • The resulting liquid, or distillate, is then mixed with herbs and spices, such as anise, coriander, and fennel, to give ouzo its characteristic flavor and aroma.

How to Serve Aperitif Ouzo?

Aperitif ouzo is traditionally served as an aperitif or a digestif, and is typically enjoyed before a meal. Here are some tips on how to serve and enjoy aperitif ouzo:

  • Chill the ouzo: Aperitif ouzo is best served chilled or over ice. You can chill the bottle in the refrigerator or freezer before serving.
  • Choose the right glass: Ouzo is traditionally served in a small, narrow glass called a “tumbler” or “shot glass.” This allows the drinker to savor the aroma and taste of the drink.
  • Add water: To enjoy the full flavor of aperitif ouzo, it is recommended to add water, which helps release the essential oils and enhances the aroma of the drink.

Similarities and Differences with Other Aperitifs

While Pastis, Sambuca, and Raki share a similar licorice aroma with aperitif ouzo, they are all made with different ingredients and production methods, which gives each drink its own unique flavor profile. 

Pastis is made with a blend of herbs and spices, including anise, licorice, and fennel, which are infused into a neutral grape brandy. 

Sambuca, on the other hand, is made with star anise and elderflower, which gives it a slightly different flavor profile compared to Pastis and aperitif ouzo.

Raki, which is a popular drink in Turkey, is made from distilled grapes and flavored with aniseed. It is typically served with mezze dishes, and is often enjoyed as an after-dinner drink.

The scent of ouzo may also easily be distinguished from other Greek alcoholic beverages, including Tsipouro, Metaxa, and Mastika.

Tsipouro, for example, is a grape-based pomace brandy that is often enjoyed as an aperitif or after-dinner drink. It has less emphasis on the herbaceous and licorice notes. 

Metaxa, on the other hand, is a brandy that is aged in oak barrels and flavored with a blend of Mediterranean herbs and spices. It has a smooth, rich flavor and a slightly sweet aroma, with notes of vanilla, honey, and cinnamon.

Mastika, which is also known as mastic or mastic liqueur, is made from the resin of the mastic tree, which is native to the Greek island of Chios. It has a distinct piney, herbal aroma, with a sweet and slightly bitter aroma. 


What Are The Best Aperitif Ouzos?

Choosing the “best” aperitif ouzo can be subjective, as everyone’s taste preferences are different. However, there are some popular and well-regarded brands of aperitif ouzo that are worth trying: Ouzo 12, Ouzo 7, Metaxa Ouzo….

What Do You Say Before Drinking Ouzo?

In Greek culture, it is customary to say “yamas”, which means “to our health” or “cheers,” before drinking ouzo. This is a traditional toast that is used to express good wishes and to show appreciation for the company of others.

Is Ouzo a Strong Alcohol?

Ouzo is typically around 40% alcohol by volume (ABV), which is similar to the alcohol content of many other distilled spirits such as vodka, gin, and whiskey. However, the strength of ouzo can vary depending on the brand and region where it is produced.

Can you get drunk from Ouzo?

Yes, it is possible to get drunk from ouzo if you consume it in excessive amounts. Ouzo, like other alcoholic beverages, contains ethanol, which is a psychoactive substance that affects the central nervous system and can cause intoxication when consumed in large quantities.

How long does Ouzo last once opened?

Once opened, ouzo can last for a long time if stored properly. Generally, ouzo can last for several years if stored properly, but its flavor and aroma may start to deteriorate after a year or two.

Final Thought

The question “What does the aperitif ouzo smell like?” has already been answered. With its unique flavor and deep history, ouzo has certainly made its mark on Greek culture as well as in countries around the world and continues to remain a popular choice amongst liquor connoisseurs and collectors alike.

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Tom Valenti

Chef/Owner of both Ouest and ‘Cesca, and the Executive Chef of Le Cirque, Alison on Dominick, and Butterfield 81.

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