Two times into a months-long friends vacation to Greece, and I identified myself confronting a single of the nation’s one of a kind countrywide nectars. Shifting my bodyweight in a corner deli/liquor retail store, I admired a distinct bottle. Its label was adorned with grapes, but usually pretty actually Greek to me. The shopkeep (ancient, stooped, moustachioed) tottered about, pointed at the bottle and mentioned, just, “tsípouro.” I asked him if he spoke any English. He shook his head and responded, “tsípouro.” Maybe it was the jet lag. It’s possible it was my accursed inclination to go together to get together. But I just shrugged, stated some thing stupid like, “OK, excellent!” and procured my initial and previous bottle of tsípouro, believing it to be some form of area white wine.
Turns out tsípouro is not a wine but an astringent, brandy-like liquor created from pomace, which is the leftovers of the skins and stems of grapes utilized in wine-generating. Another use for pomace? Fertilizer. So possibly I should really not have been all far too shocked that a shot of pure tsípouro preferences quite considerably like kerosine. Nonetheless, we had a total bottle of the things. And so my good friends and I created brief get the job done of it. Then, a handful of days afterwards, on the historic island of Rhodes deep in the southern Aegean, we thought we’d stick to up a great food with a shot of the stuff. By this time, we’d turn into rather accustomed to its acrid, utterly uncomfortable style, and slugging again a shot felt a bit like ritual. Hardly concealing his disgust, our gruffly genial server available anything else. “No tsípouro,” he grumbled. “Ouzo.” And ouzo it was.
Now, I’m rather confident I’d experienced ouzo prior to: regardless of whether at a Greek-Canadian cafe in my hometown of Toronto, or at just one of those people hoity-toity parties exactly where people today with refined tastes luxuriate in dispensing splashes of exotic liquors (i.e. the ones that are not rye). Or possibly I was contemplating of sambuca, which is not Greek but Italian, but which is also a biting, liquorice-y liquor which I remember my dad’s mate freely doling out close to the holidays. But I can not remember ever acquiring relished ouzo. Or sambuca. Or absinthe, or generally any other anise-forward aperitif. Nevertheless: “When in Rhodes…” and all that.
Possibly it was the restaurant’s hospitality. It’s possible it was the heat Oct twilight, or the hotter enterprise of superior buddies. But damn if that ouzo did not strike. That astringency turned to sweetness, coating my tongue, pleasantly numbing it. It even available an aesthetic pleasure, which was fully absent from any of my previous ouzo encounters. Because in ice, the clear liquor turns a type of milky white. This emulsion uncoils within the glass, like an octopus’s ink oozing by means of water. (This is a chemical reaction termed, appropriately, the “ouzo effect.”) Cold and vaguely medicinal — and also, it turns out, coming compliments of our server — it just seriously strike the spot. I was in really like with ouzo.
So I purchased a bottle, and ferried it property in my checked bag. Soon soon after returning from Greece, I eagerly well prepared a glass, one ice dice and all. There, it turned harmful in my mouth. It was treacly and gross and everything I experienced formerly affiliated with ouzo.
I have had equivalent experiences with Czech beer (incredible in Prague, so-so at a bar in downtown Toronto), Cuban rum (eaten aplenty in Havana, blended with Coke-like pop or into sweet daiquiris, yet still left sitting in a dusty bottle on a shelf in my apartment), and even vodka (the downing of which feels vaguely liturgical in Poland, but which I would not contact if you paid me again residence). What, I began to ponder, as I doused my anise-deadened mouth with a substantial glass of faucet h2o, accounted for this evening-and-working day variation?
Attempting to respond to this dilemma, I arrived at what I consider to be an crucial attractiveness of vacation by itself. Amid the additional compulsive vacationers (and I depend myself between them), there’s a manic, 50 %-mad tendency to choose in as a lot of a desired destination as possible, in crude, scratch-stuff-off-a-listing conditions. On a new holiday break in Paris my husband or wife and I motored all around tirelessly: from the a short while ago burned Notre Dame to the august Shakespeare & Co. bookshop, to the Pantheon, the Catacombes, the Louvre, the Pompidou, Napoleon’s tomb, and a cafe that pops up in Hemingway, where by we slurped back a frankly heroic number of snails. It was exhilarating, but also exhausting. When I glance again on that trip, the matter I don’t forget most is sipping a beer on a ruddy barge docked on the Seine, although the strains of a street musician’s violin wafted in the track record.
So it was with Greece, which proved likewise busy. With its wealth of historic web-sites, beaches, and sufficient seafood eateries, a couple of times in Athens can sense wearying. Ditto the apply of “island-hopping” by means of Greece’s numerous island chains an activity that (on a contracted itinerary) is certain to experience a little bit rushed. But there, on the outdoor patio of Mama Sofia’s in Rhodes, every little thing form of stalled. That great food items, the congenial services, the corporation, and the dusk all conspired, and have been seemingly apprehended in a one smaller glass of ouzo. The eminent vacation author and tourist guide Rick Steves always preaches the benefit of getting a “cultural chameleon.” But it’s not really that. It’s not like I’m drinking ouzo to move myself off as a true-offer Greek guy. It is about appreciating some thing of people surroundings, of the problems (beyond nationwide affiliation) from which a sense of true-deal experience of Greekness might occur.
It’s a cliché that travel is not a place but a journey. What strikes me as true about it, nevertheless, is that travel is as substantially about actions and sights and tastes as it is the setting. The matters that linger are not so a lot, perfectly, the issues. But instead the context in which individuals points were loved — all the things close to the stuff. It’s this context that transmutes mere practical experience into memory, magically exploding information absorbed by the senses into a thing unique, like an emulsion in a glass of anise-y booze.
And maybe a person day, if the variables maneuver felicitously in my favour, I’ll absorb myself in the correct context the place even an abrasive shot of tsípouro will tickle me just so. It is just the kind of prospect that has me eagerly anticipating yet another journey to the Greek isles.
Eager to test some tsipouro in Greece? G Adventures can get you there. Verify out our modest group excursions to Greece listed here.