What exactly Are You Drinking - Tsipouro? Tsikoudia? Zivania?

| by George Papas | March 27, 2008
Greece offers spirits unique to the country and even to regions. So what are tsipouro, zivania or mournoraki? And what's the difference? All begins as pomace wines distilled into brandies.
Ouzo, tsipouro, tsikoudia, raki, zivania, souma, mournoraki...what exactly are you drinking as you enjoy the variety of spirits Greece has to offer?
Tsipouro, tsikoudia and ouzo have often been confused. Ouzo is produced traditionally and exclusively in Greece and has an anise flavor. The aniseed is what gives ouzo its trademark milkiness when water is added. Mastic (masticha) from Chios island, ginger, and cinnamon are all part of the distillation process, giving ouzo its distinctive taste. Its main distinction is in the traditional method of its flavoring.
Tsipouro, http://www.toplink.gr/gr … index.html cousin to ouzo, is a pomace brandy. A stronger version is tsikoudia. Tsikoudia is known as zivania in Cyprus, and as souma in the Cycladic islands. Tsikoudia made from mulberries is mournoraki. Raki is name for tsikoudia in Greece, but is another drink altogether in Turkey. Confused?
Pour yourself a drink, and we'll sort this out.
These alcoholic beverages have their roots in poverty. Tsipouro and tsikoudia are made from grapes grown in poor soil. When must is made, when the initial pressing extracts the grape's juice, the seeds, stems and grape-peels of the fruits aren't thrown away. They are distilled to into tsipouro and tsikoudia.
Must is the juice of freshly pressed grapes. The juice is siphoned off and what remains is pulp, skins, stems, and seeds - the pomace. The pomace is soaked in water, allowed to ferment for a short time, and then pressed again.
The resulting product, pomace wine, was widely used as a wine substitute during ancient and medieval times. Today, pomace wine is uncommon. It has a low alcohol content, and can not be stored for long. Pomace brandy is distilled pomace wine.
Tsipouro is a pomace brandy made in Thessaly, http://www.toplink.gr/gr … index.html Epirus, http://www.toplink.gr/gr … index.html Macedonia, http://www.toplink.gr/gr … index.html or Crete. Tsipouro is approximately 45 percent alcohol by volume. And you can learn what Greeks know - tsipouro is the drink of choice. Aficionados try to detect the nuances of flavor among tsipouro varieties.
According to tradition, tsipouro was first made by a monk in the 1300's in Macedonia. Gradually, using the pomace to create a distilled spirit passed to poorer regions and tsipouro was born.
Tsipouro can be served hot or cold replacing coffee or wine. It is served in a shot glass with meze.
Tsikoudia or raki is another grape-based spirit – from the island of Crete, http://www.toplink.gr/gr … index.html also made from distilling pomace. Tsikoudia is more aromatic than tsipouro. Turkish raki is not the same drink as Cretan raki. In Turkey, raki made from the residue of grapes and twice distilled. It is generally mixed with water.
As a tourist, sooner or later you will be offered tsikoudia. Never drink it on an empty stomach! Have some after you eat or with food. Never mix raki with another type of alcohol; you will have a severe hangover.
Zivania is another pomace brandy made on the island of Cyprus. It is characterized by being colorless and having the light aroma of raisins. Typical alcohol content is 45% by volume. Since 2004, Zivania has been protected under EU regulations as a product unique to Cyprus and so it cannot be produced in anywhere else.
This alcohol has been used to treat wounds, for massaging sore muscles, as a remedy for colds or toothaches. But mostly, zivania is served ice-cold with meze.

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George Papas is with the site: http://www.toplink.gr this site gives free information about Greece. If you are looking to travel in Greece you can find general information, accommodation, dining, travel services, art and culture. » Read more articles by George Papas
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