So we’ve had this bottle of Ouzo we bought for a Greek themed birthday party (remember parties?), and besides taking the post-party celebratory shot… the bottle has just been sitting there for months.
And I don’t like things without a purpose.
SO! I set out to give it one.
Before I begin, let it be known that I’m pretty sensitive to the flavor of black licorice. It’s not my favorite. I don’t hate it…
But it’s not my favorite.
I love fennel and tarragon and those lighter licoriiish flavors, but when we get right to that strong flavor of black licorice… it’s a bit of a challenge for me.
So, of course I wrote a recipe with it.
Anise, or aniseed is a black licorice-tasting spice in the same family as dill, cumin, caraway and fennel. Not to be confused with star anise, which is the star shaped fruit of a tree in the magnolia family whose flavor is definitely similar, but is more potent than aniseed. For instance, if you’re following a recipe that calls for star anise and you only happen to have anise / aniseed, you’d have to double the amount of the seed in the recipe.
And Ouzo is an anise flavored aperitif produced in Greece and Cyprus that is similar to a liqueur. It’s made from the skins and stems of wine grapes after they went through the wine-making process (we call that the must). That must, or liquid leftover from the wine press, then becomes distilled into a very high alcoholic beverage flavored with anise. Some Ouzo is flavored with other things like cardamom, fennel, cloves, cinnamon… but the predominant flavor in all Ouzos is anise.
It’s some strong stuff. Those Greeks don’t play, man.
And the thing about a really strong alcoholic beverage with a really strong flavor is… well, it’s really strong. And therefore a difficult ingredient to strike balance.
BUT! I did it.
Guys. This cocktail is SO GOOD. And that’s coming from a Licorice Unbeliever. It’s everything it needs to be. I’m beyond thrilled.
<she says whilst sipping said cocktail>
And also, let’s be real – we had to give the MVP’s in the liquor cabinet a break during this quarantine.
(I didn’t forget about you, bourbon. You know you’re still mommy’s favorite💋.)
What’s really cool about anise-flavored liqueurs and aperitifs is that there are so many made around the world! Anise is said to aid in digestion, and a lot of cultures sip on their beverage after a meal to settle their stomachs. There are also some cultures that chew on the actual anise seeds after a meal for the same reason.
So, maybe you happen to have a dusty bottle of Ouzo lying around in your quarantine liquor cabinet? Make this!
Or… maybe you have a bottle of Sambuca! That’s an Italian anise-flavored liqueur, so totally a great sub. Although, watch out for the black Sambuca… that’s stronger, and less sweet. Or… maybe you have some… Absinthe? That’s some rad stuff. Anis del Mono? That’s a Spanish anise liqueur. Pernod? That’s French, it’s flavored with actual licorice root and traditionally used in Bouillabaisse. Anís Najar? That’s some strong as hell Peruvian anise flavored hooch. In Turkey, they have Raki… maybe you have Raki in your liquor cabinet?
Please let me know if you have Raki in your liquor cabinet.
But I happened to have a desperate bottle of Ouzo to play with today, and that’s what I did.
So, here’s to settled tummies and trying new things during this stay-at-home time. It’s easy to feel trapped and very Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. But with a little bit of creativity, some thinking outside the piles of Amazon boxes, and a shit-ton of teamwork and lean-on-me, it is possible to make it through this.
Ouzo Honey Lemonade
In a cocktail shaker, combine the following :
- 4 ounces Ouzo
- 4 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice (this is the equivalent of 2 very large lemons, or 4 small)
- 1 ounce / 2 TB honey
- 1 fresh thyme sprig
- 1 fresh mint sprig
- (more of each herb for garnish, if desired)
Fill the shaker with ice and shake shake shake.
Serve Up in your desired glass. I went for a vintage champagne coupe because we quarantine fancy ’round here.
Sip on your porch, your patio, anywhere you can get some good at-home nature and spring vibes.