James Bond is a proponent of the saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans.” When he travels abroad, he immerses himself in the local food and drink.

In From Russia With Love,  while Bond is traveling to his assignment, he has a bit of a scare on the plane, and when he lands at for a stopover in Athens, he heads to the bar.

He ordered a tumbler of ouzo and drank it down and chased it with a mouthful of ice water. There was a strong bit under the sickly anisette taste and Bond felt the drink light a quick, small fire down his throat and in his stomach. He put down his glass and ordered another.

Later, when Bond is having lunch with Darko Kerim after arriving in Turkey, he is served raki. He notes that it tasted “identical with ouzo.”

When Kerim and Bond visit the gypsy camp and are invited to dinner, raki is in abundance at the tables.

So are ouzo and raki the same? Not quite, like sambuca, absinthe and Pernod they are anise-flavoured distillates each originating in a different country. Ouzo is from Greece, raki from Turkey, sambuca from Italy, absinthe from Switzerland and Pernod from France.

They are made of the leftovers from wine production. The leftover skin and pulp from the grapes are boiled up to produce a steam, that, when condensed, becomes the liquor. The concentrations and additives to each are slightly different, making each liquor slightly different as well. The anise gives them all a base taste of black licorice.

Several, including ouzo and raki, when mixed with water turn a milky color. Raki is generally much stronger (up to 90% alcohol) than ouzo (usually 35-45%.)


6 thoughts on “Ouzo and Raki

  1. Ouzo, when added to water, goes milky. I have just tried the same with Greek raki we brought back- it doesn’t! This implies it is _not_ the same chemically!

    1. Greek raki is not Turkish raki (I do not have the pointless “i” of Turkish).
      Turkish raki is like ouzo, Greek raki is like Italian grappa.

  2. Helpful post, I was aware of Ouza, Sambucca, Anisette, and Raki, but although I’ve had Absinthe while in Switzerland several years ago, I didn’t realize it was just another Ouza considering the wormwood? I also never tried Pernod.

    Turkish Raki does indeed go milky when water is added, at least the brands I’ve tried. Absinthe strained over a sugar cube into water turns milky if I recall properly. I would never do that myself as I add sugar to nothing.

  3. Raki, being the most culturally and culinary rich is a feast for those who seek this kind of spirit. When I think of Istanbul I can smell the aroma of meze’s at the table and a glass of raki, next to a glass of ice cold water (as these are always served together).

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