The Ultimate Guide To Greek Ouzo and Meze
The Greek islands may be best known for amazing beaches, beautiful sunsets and breathtaking landscapes but the Greek food alone could be a great reason to visit them! With the unique geology and the location at the crossroads of East and West, combined with a favourable climate, the Greek islands have rich local produce including meat, fresh fish, herbs, and ripe vegetables which combine into delicious local recipes.
The best way to experience Greek food and culture is to sit down at a local taverna and sample the Meze and Ouzo - this way you’ll know you have been part of Real Greece!
Ouzo, the world famous Greek spirit and Meze (or small plates) are extremely popular amongst tourists and locals. Not only can it be a good value way to eat, but it is also an ideal way to sample local delicacies and introduce yourself to true Greek gastronomic delights!
What is a True Greek Meze?
Meze is an ideal lunch or dinner option when visiting authentic Greece. It basically consists of lots of small plates or appetisers. These can be hot or cold and are a great way to try Greek dishes that you may not have sampled before! Meze are usually made with local ingredients and are often very healthy too, containing delicious local extra virgin olive oil. It is also easy for vegetarians to dine out on meze and not feel they are missing out at all! The meze are often served in several courses - brought out as they are freshly prepared and are the perfect accompaniment to local Lesvos Ouzo!
As an island in the azure Aegean sea, there is a wide variety of delicious seafood on offer on Lesvos. The sardines, fresh or salted, from the bay of Kalloni are a particular speciality! There’s also lots of fresh octopus, calamari and a wide variety of fish.
Lesvos also has amazing cheese production, many are PDO - Protected Designation of Origin products, meaning they are made here. Yes, there’s local Greek Mytilini Feta which is sharp and delicious but you can also try Ladotyri cheese and Kaseri Eressou - all are great served warm in a saganaki, with fresh bread on the side.
The honey on Lesvos is very special too - due to the varied nature of the plants and flowers on the island. You can buy thyme, pine and flower honey in most places - it’s great served with local cheese and also with rich, creamy, local Greek yogurt - pretty much on every menu, everywhere!.
Stuffed zucchini (courgette) flowers are a local delicacy - known as Kolokithlouloudia - the flowers are picked in the morning, very carefully, to avoid damaging them and filled with either feta and ricotta with mint and dill, or a rice and herb mixture. They are lightly coated in batter and fried. The flavours are breathtaking, as they literally melt in your mouth!
Add in some delicious Spanakopita ( spinach pies) and Tiropitakia ( cheese pies) and a fresh village salad with herbs and local olives and extra virgin olive oil and there’s a mouth-watering feast waiting for you!
Ouzo - the famous Greek Spirit
Ouzo is an alcoholic spirit usually served with meze all over Greece. There are specific eateries called Ouzeries dedicated just to this! It generally comes in small bottles and you pour it yourself, over ice or with cold water. It is a clear liquid in the bottle and turns a milky white colour when mixed. This world famous, aniseed flavoured liquor is originally from the island of Lesvos and there are a lot of distilleries on the island, 17 still in production, all making this delicious spirit. Over 50% of Greece’s ouzo production comes from Lesvos and two of the Ouzo brands from Mytilini and Plomari on the island have their own Protected Origin status. Trying some is a must on your Greek island holiday. It’s a sweet and strong alcoholic drink made from the by-products of wine-making, and distilled into a drink, flavoured with anise, mastic and various herbs. Different brands taste subtly different so make sure you try a few varieties. How you drink it is important to the Greeks - Sip it slowly, with ice or cold water and don’t do shots, it’s meant to be savoured! See how it’s produced using traditional methods at the famous museums and distilleries on the island of Lesvos and take home some samples.
Eat and drink slowly, like the locals do, as a cultural ritual and savour the flavours of Greece!