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A well-titrated infusion of Ouzo serves to cool the patient and reinvigorate his cardinal humours.
It’s been 80+ degrees in my apartment this week. Some damn fool in the front office decided, apparently, that two days of moderately cool weather qualified as the end of the warm season and fired up the boiler. Coming home at the end of the day to a stifling living room has a way of sapping the last bit of energy out of a body — what’s to be done? Even putting effort into mixing a cocktail seems a burden.

Well, in a situation like this I turn to two things: cold showers (rinse and repeat, y’all) and the wonderful variety of anise-flavored liquors popular throughout Europe and the Middle East: Ouzo, Rakı, Arak, Mastika, Sambuca, Pastis, Absinthe, Anisettes… it seems like everybody has some sort of anise-flavored local hooch. And why not? Most of these regions know from warm summer evenings where A/C is certainly less than ubiquitous. And while there are numerous unique and traditional preparations for each elixir, the following seems to be shared among them all:

1 part Spirit
1-3 parts Water
Ice

Simplicity itself. Grab a tall glass — or a short one, whatever’s pretty. Pour the booze over ice and then dilute to taste. Sip and savor.

This yields a drink that is eminently sippable yet doesn’t beg to be quaffed, ensuring a long series of cold touches to the lips and soothing black licorice all the way down. Fun fact: The licorice plant (used for the candy) is not botanically related to anise, star anise, or fennel, which are the primary flavoring agents in the spirits we’re talking about. This is doubly confounding when one considers licorice’s other common spelling: liquorice. Liquor-ice. What are the odds, is all I’m saying.

Add a little water to one of these drinks and you will witness what is called the “Ouzo effect,” a seemingly spontaneous clouding of the drink when water is added. This yields an opalescent drink by a physical process that I will explain in detail sometime but for now we should all assume is just benevolent Old World magic because we’re close to Halloween and I don’t want to bore you today.

I can say from extensive research and first-hand experience that this type of drink makes for a lovely evening with friends; cools the body and mind; and is a wonderful companion to scary movies in late October. Enjoy long and slow, let the nights of October darken around you, think of strange and wonderful lands across the seas and of black cats and pumpkins with flickering faces. And stay cool out there.

Drink Well.

-Chris

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