Books on ouzo are few and far between. Still, if your love of everything ouzo is not limited to the delicious appetizers that go with it, you can learn a lot about your favorite drink and appreciate each heady sip by reading three outstanding books in Greek (“Distillation of Life, Ouzo Barbayanni” is bilingual, in Greek and English) on the subject:
Authors: Stathis Georgiadis and Lefteris Eleftheriadis
Published by: Road Publications, Athens 2008
Price range: €17.55 – €39
It is perhaps the most comprehensive written record of Greek and Cypriot distilleries in the form of a lovely album with a wealth of photographic material and fascinating information on ouzo and everything that revolves around it. What makes this book so special is that it is the result of a systematic recording and research effort on the part of its authors, who traveled extensively in the areas and regions where the Greek national drink is produced. What better travel guide for those whose luggage on the way back home will be redolent with the aroma of ouzo? The album’s long table of contents includes maps showing the location of each distillery and its chapters discuss production methods and ingredients of ouzo, traditional copper pot stills, Greek and Cypriot distillers, songs about ouzo, and recipes for traditional and regional ouzo appetizers.
One drawback of this lavish, albeit hefty, edition is its size and weight, which unavoidably relegate it to the coffee table. What is more, as is true of every research effort, the information that was recorded and documented eight years ago is, unsurprisingly, not entirely updated.
Distillation of Life, Ouzo Barbayanni
Author: Giorgos Giannakopoulos
Published by: Ellinikes Omoiografikes Ekdoseis, Athens 2007
Price range: €49 to €62
Another splendid volume which all but smells of ouzo, documenting in detail the history of the Barbayannis Liquor Distillery in Greek as well as English. After an introduction to the world of ouzo with chapters such as “Distillation”; “The History of Ouzo”; “Lesvos and “Plomari”, historian Dr. Giorgos Giannakopoulos documents the successful course of the Barbayannis Distillery since its establishment in 1860. A large part of the book is taken up by the perfectly shot photographs of the precious family archives, which are on display at the Barbayannis Ouzo Museum in Plomari. The book makes for a very pleasant read, taking the reader on a journey to the past and present of traditional distillation.
The major disadvantage of this otherwise excellent edition is the lack of a table of contents. Furthermore, despite the book’s meticulous research and high aesthetic value, its price is still quite steep for an effort that undeniably aims at the promotion of the company and of its traditional methods of ouzo production.
From Raki to Ouzo: an intoxicating journey in degustation and ouzo tasting
Author: Kostas Paschalis Beis
Published by: Beis Distillery, Serres 2013
Price range: €8 to €10
The secrets of Tsipouro, Raki & Ouzo
Author: Kostas Paschalis Beis
Published by: Lambrakis Press Group, Athens 2014
This remarkable book on ouzo, most of which was printed by the Greek newspaper TA NEA and distributed to its readership, is the most comprehensive study, documentation, and presentation on the history of ouzo. Written by Kostas Paschalis (aka Beis), a journalist and third-generation distiller, it stands to reason that the book should contain exclusive aspects and secrets of distillation directly from the source. Among other things, the author explores subjects such as the craftsmen of ouzo (rakitzides), the relation between ouzo and raki, ouzo tasting, the Greek distilling industry, and the distilleries of Serres in particular. Rich in content and packed with love, passion, and respect for family tradition, this book on distillery offers its readers an extraordinary opportunity to delve into the world of ouzo, learn all about it, and properly appreciate the value of ouzo from birth to consumption.