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Tsipouro

Tsipouro is a quite popular Greek un-aged brandy. According to tradition, tsipouro was first made by monks in Mount Athos (in Greek: Agion Oros) in the 14th century. Soon its production became known to other places as well, such as Macedonia, Epirus, Thessaly and Crete, where a variant of tsipouro, named Tsikoudia or Raki is far more popular. Tsikoudia, the traditional drink of Crete, is a product of single distillation, unlike tsipouro.

Tsipouro is a strong distilled spirit containing 40-45% alcohol by volume. The raw material for the production of distillate is the marcs or pomace, i.e. the residue of the wine press that takes place in the autumn. Pomace contains the skins of the grapes, seeds, and parts of unleavened, fermented or fully fermented must. The seeds make up 3-6%, the skin 6-9% and the flesh 75-85% of the mass from which tsipouro is produced. Both white and red grapes are being used.

The product obtained from the first distillation of the marcs can be consumed without undergoing a second distillation. Double-distilled tsipouro is cleaner and finer in aroma and taste. During the second distillation some producers add aromatic substances such as anise, fennel, clove, nutmeg and mastic, a method common mostly in Thessaly and in Macedonia. In Epirus and Crete, they prefer to drink pure tsipouro, commonly known as tsipouro "without anise". Tsipouro "with anise" whitens like ouzo when water is added.

Nowadays, some producers use the whole of the pulp, without taking out the must for wine production. Spirits are being made from grape varieties such as Roditis, Muscat, Xinomavro, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malagousia. The most common variety used for tsipouro is Muscat (in Greek: Moschato) of Tyrnavos.

Until the end of the 20th century, production of tsipouro was secretly made in houses. The recipe of the distillation process of each family has been passed down from generation to generation. Selling spirits was banned until 1988. Very few winegrowers in certain areas had the right to distill and trade it exclusively within the borders of the region it was made. From 1988 onwards, the legislation provides that the production and distribution of tsipouro throughout Greece is possible under a special permit.

Traditionally tsipouro is served along with two shot glasses right before the main course. It is usually consumed cool at 10-15 ° C in order to retain its aroma.

Tsipouro has become very popular in recent years and is available in most restaurants. Tsipouradika, restaurants that serve tsipouro along with a wide variety of appetisers (meze), can be found all over Greece. With each new order, Tsipouradika offer their customers a new course, different than the previous one. Meze is not the same everywhere and depends on the geographical area the restaurant is located.

Even to this day, in Mount Athos the monks welcome pilgrims offering tsipouro and loukoumi (=Turkish delight).