Ouzo – History of a word
“Scattered in diaries, journals, newspapers and in books, about ninety publications of Achilles Tzartzanos are found, along with treatises and books are typical of scientific progress and his interests”, writes his son Nassos Tzartzanos in the foreword of the book Articles and Essays by Achilles Tzartzanos.
These, then, the articles are perhaps the most charming that Tzartzanos has left us: read by how much fun in one of these, he talks about the birth of the word ouzo.
«Everyone of course now, poor and rich, humble and aristocrats, drink ouzo, and it is now the favorite drink of ladies and gentlemen, young men and ladies and it is served not only in popular bars or in poor homes, but also in the plutocratic and aristocratic living centers. But I doubt if there is anyone out of Tyrnavos of Thessaly, birthplace of ouzo and its name, who knows from whence this favorite drink has its name, or-most important-if there is anyone who can imagine what the relation is between the name of ouzo with the thing, which this word means.»
Let’s go about one hundred fifty years back, and let’s go back to the Thessalian town, home of ouzo, then in the last years of Turkish occupation of Thessaly.
The «matavrasmeno» (double-boiled) raki” was named ouzo just in the last years of Ottoman rule in Tyrnavos and Thessaly (1878-1881) by the following reason.
» There was then in Tyrnavos a military doctor of the Turkish army, Armenian, named Stavrak-Beys, who had a great friendship with two elders of Tyrnavos, Antonios Makris, textile trader, and Dimitrios Doumenikiotis, grocer and distiller, those three friends regularly took their appetizer at midday, the “matavrasmeno raki, as we call it ouzo today.
» Stavrak-Beys, as, it seemed, had a special love to drink it, he went once let’s say to the plant of D. Doumenikiotis and there on the spot, as we say, he suggested D. Doumenikiotis to add another substance in order to have raki in a better quality. And indeed, when the distillation was integrated according to the doctor’s advice the three friends went to try the spirit of that day, Anthonios Makris first of all, was oversatisfied when he tried it and exclaimed «Oh, what is this? This is ouzo of Marseilles!»
» And so it went by the name of ouzo.
» By this now, someone will ask what Ant. Makris, the godfather of ouzo wanted to say by “ouzo of Marseilles, from which has remained the word ouzo as the name of” matavrasmeno (double-boiled) raki “of good quality?
» In Tyrnavos there always used to be the growing of silkworm and cocoons are produced annually in large quantities. Those years from these cocoons, the finest were packed in special balls and were sent in Volos for Europe, with the inscription uso Massalia, which means for the use of Marseilles.
» This phrase (uso Massalia) in the trade of cocoons of meant the high quality and by the exclamation Mr Makris without imagining then, he became the creator of a word.
Articles and studies (care N.A. Tzartzanos), Editions K. Kakoulidi.