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What is Zipouro?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2016
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Zipouro is a traditional liquor produced in the Greek town of Arachova, located in the southern region of Thessaly. It can be difficult to obtain this liquor outside of Greece, where it is a regional delicacy, and some people substitute raki or ouzo for zipouro if they have trouble finding it. It may also be spelled as "tsipouro," incidentally, reflecting the difficulties involved in transliterating from the Greek alphabet to the Roman alphabet.

This liquor is classified as a pomace brandy, which means that it is produced with pomace wine. Pomace wine is a wine made from the skins, seeds, leaves, and other remainders of the crushing. It tends to be of inferior quality as a wine, but it can yield an excellent base for brandies, which are made by distilling pomace wine. Many nations have a tradition of making brandies from pomace, ensuring that every part of the grape harvest gets used. Zipouro has an alcohol content of around 45%, making it a rather formidable liquor.

Records suggest that distillations of pomace wine have been made in Greece since at least the 14th century. Allegedly, distilled spirits were developed by monks, who wanted to come up with a use for pomace, and stumbled upon the idea of distilling it. After distillation, pomace can be utilized as fertilizer, while the distilled spirits can be consumed or used to make medicinal tinctures.

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Like ouzo, a much more famous distilled liquor from Greece, zipouro has a flavor which is reminiscent of anise, and it can be served hot or chilled, depending on the weather, and it is often diluted with water to cut the alcohol content. Cold zipouro is used as a refreshing drink in summer, while hot zipouro can warm the body after working outdoors in the winter, especially during rain and snow. Typically, zipouro is heated by blending it with warm water, which causes it to turn milky in color; otherwise, zipouro is usually clear.

Zipouro is rarely consumed alone. The consumption of distilled liquors usually takes place at social occasions in Greece, and it is accompanied with meze, or "small dishes," platters of light snacks such as olives, stuffed grape leaves, bread, almonds, cheese, and so forth. Zipouro may also be consumed after dinner with desserts like baklava, with the brisk liquor cutting through the sweetness of the baklava and leaving a pleasant finish behind.

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