Why a modern Greek should feel like Achilles at sea

While everyone gets used to what most of us saw (and wrote) all along and the Greek debt sooner or later gets restructured, the road ahead is pretty clear: we have to actually produce something!   While the media and most of the population rolls over slowly, fat and lazy from so many years of a bloated public sector, someone has to go to Troy to fight.   Much like the Greeks back then though:

1. We are naturally skeptical. When I first saw the press release about a Greek company in the Innovation Parc I automatically assumed it is yet another scam.   So many years of seeing pseudo-business ventures makes a genuinely world standard effort hard to believe.

2. Most just don’t want to fight, quite happy in their own villages.    Trying to talk a Greek brand name like Loumidis to turn himself into something with a proven success record like is a task for …Ulysses’ cunning!

3. We get emotional and miss the point.   Helen was probably not very happy in Sparta anyway.   Who cares if Paris loved her?    Business is business.   I see this now while monitoring worldwide media regarding ouzo, one of those products that is considered so Greek it hurts.  Like feta cheese, some people get too caught up in history to face the real enemy; anyone selling our history better than us!

Much like Achilles, modern Greeks have a decision to make:   They can stay home and die poor and unknown, or they can venture forth to try and conquer the world like their ship faring ancestors have always done in the past.   It is written that Achilles beat the main force and landed with his handful of faithful warriors to take on the entire Trojan defenses before anyone else.   They could hardly keep him in the ship as it approached the well defended shore.   His enthusiasm for battle and immortality was impossible to hold back.

Hand me that spear.


Scanning opportunities and inroads to social networking

Old photos fade away.   Literally!   No matter what paper they are printed on, even in good storage conditions.   So as I started to scan a few from my vast – pre digital – collection I couldn’t help but feel there is a better way.   Not even an automated scanner would save me.   I want to cart off the whole thing.   It seems self evident that there is a market.   Why hasn’t it taken off?

Well it is not organised.   Can you name a company that will handle the entire process?   Pick up boxes and return organised DVDs of the pictures, images cleaned up and available in high and low res.   While they are at it why not have them somewhere online for me to pick from.   It would be a great way for any company to get a leg up in social networking.   “Give us your pictures and we will start off your impressive photo blog!”   After all, your friends, coworkers and relatives are all in some picture somewhere.   Tag them and we email them to join!

For anyone with more than an amateur interest in photography it is also a possible revenue source.   (Or so they think; which means they will pay more for it!)  If you have a collection of slides from travels around the world or whatever your pet interest was, they are possibly useful.   If only someone would scan and process them all…  Again it would be a great Trojan horse for someone to get your hosting business. 

A final word of advice:  if you do scan old pictures there will inevitably be some of old girlfriends.   Give the job to a professional agency or else your wife will give you serious grief!

Ouzo recipes

Master Chef’s “insanely delicious” ouzo sauce

Master Chef material!

“Insanely delicious scallops&shrimp on eggy noodles w creamy ouzo sauce @my FAVE Manhatt greek resto #Pylos. Their tarama DE-stroys all others.”  If you are not from the U.S. you may not know Kelly Choi who Wikipedia says “is the former host of Bravo TV‘s Top Chef spin-off, Top Chef Masters, which premiered on June 10, 2009.[1] Choi is also an Emmy-award winning KoreanAmerican television personality on NYC TV, one of the broadcast stations of NYC Media Group, the television and media network owned by the City of New York.”

In any case, she needs to improve her photography skills or get a better phone because this surely doesn’t look very appealing!

Ouzo factoids

Don’t get drunk: drink real A grade Greek ouzo

Following Twitter references to ouzo and #ouzo there is a very specific group of people with old bad memories of ugly hangovers associated to ouzo drinking.   This is commonly the result of improvised cocktails or slammer abuse but more commonly I would guess due to low grade pseudo (non distilled) ouzo or non A brand ouzo.

Here are some things to look out for:

1. Properly distilled ouzo is absolutely clear, you can’t really tell it isn’t water.

2. It also goes milky white  in a balanced way when you add water.

It says "ouzo" but what is in it?

3. The aroma is mild, it shouldn’t blow your nose away!

4. A whiff of aniseed, phinocio, gum, cinamon, kakoule and even chamomile are possible ideas as you bring it to your nose .

5. If you know your wines, good ouzo is semi dry.

6. The after taste on a good ouzo is smooth.

The two brands used as a reference point for most experts are Plomari as indicative of a common (No1 brand worldwide) ouzo and Adolo which is the ultimate in ouzo experience, by triple distillation in very limited production runs.

All this doesn’t mean that a local ouzo might not be great, just that it is difficult to be sure what is actually in it.   And how you will wake up the next day.   As emphasized in ouzo etiquette guidelines, this is generally a social drink enjoyed with company and food.


How GrecoGerman family businesses will rule the world

It is fashionable (and easy) to target family run businesses as the source of a country’s problems.  Whether it is the Economist’s view of a region or the complaints of a middle manager who “just couldn’t get a promotion in there”.   I have studied family businesses as clients, as numbers and statistics.   I have lived and breathed one for most of my life.   And after enough years away from it now I can finally see the upside more clearly.

The term “family business” is completely useless.   The realization came crashing down on me as I got more comfortable with “Hidden Champions” (Simon Kucher) .    Even the Economist will take note.   After admiring the mid sized companies that are driving Germany’s worldwide export leadership, it takes some getting used to.    66% of these dynamic world leaders are family run.   Sure that is down 10% from what it was ten years ago.  Which is my point.  Not even a German family remains unchanged.

Not all families are the same.   So family businesses will also be pretty different. Kucher identifies factors unique to these winners like the drive to be No1, heavy investment in R&D, hard competition with neighbors and closeness to customers.   The fact that more people in these companies talk to customers has important implications for the use of social media too.   Nepotism may be rife in the Mediterranean but is not a given.

Pdf summary of the presentation on Hidden Champions is here –  FamilyBusinessPotentialInGreece.   Read it and then try to picture a German family business like those described in it next to a Greek one…maybe after enough Germans have bought land and moved to sunny Greece a new type of GrecoGermanic mid sized company will conquer the world!

Ouzo around the world

Ich trink Ouzo, was trinkst du so? – I drink ouzo, what do you drink?

It has been called “The book on the crisis” and “A love letter to Greece”.   The journalist Stella Bettermann has written a real “feel good” book.   Even the longer stories leave a nice taste in your mouth as the author describes her childhood summers with parents and brother every year in  Greece. The magic, the exotic and the violent collide in this unusual holiday she describes in “I drink ouzo, what do you drink? “. The result is a love letter to Greece, the Greek people, to the warmth of her grandmother and an impressive and unusual family that the reader will not quickly forget.

With a fine sense of humor Stella Bettermann tells of the adventurous three-day drive from Munich to Piraeus, dust and heat and the great reception that the lost daughter and her family receives annually on arrival.

The author evokes the scent of anise and cinnamon, the greeting kisses of aunts, uncles, cousins, the joy of his grandfather and the soft hands of the grandmother, the smell of basil.Grandmother and grandfather –  Yiayia and  Pappous – and her  cousin Anna are the most important people in the holiday world of the girl from Germany. The almost blind Yiayia Stella goes every day to the market to buy fruit and vegetables. With Pappous they visit the playground and learn that Greek girls are not allowed to get dirty and are always perfectly presentable. With cousin Anna Stella she has a real adventure, expedition, like those the hear of in the coffee house, the traditional domain of the males.

Stella BettermannAt this point an important warning: Do not read this book on an empty stomach, for the enjoyable and detailed description of the mountains of delicious food, prepared every night by the grandmother will have you reeling. Even Stella’s better ouzo warning will be forgotten by the next summer vacation in Greece: While you drink it, you don’t feel anything, but when you try to get up, your legs give in…

Sensitively and with great humor, the author also deals with the cultural differences between Greeks and Germans, which shape their everyday life and can lead to entertaining misunderstandings.  Greeks  overprotect their children well into their adulthood.  And the Germans? Who let their dogs make piles everywhere, even on the playground. And they do not wash dishes by hand but rinse them with a cloth – how unhygienic!  But they are neat and industrious, the Germans, and what a beautifully green country they have.    Stella’s uncle said Michalis impressive, what is his view typical Greek: “The Greeks have to say just nothing, not even the boss. Where there is no matter whether one is wealthy or influential. That makes no impression on them. The only think: Who are you on, you have me do nothing to command. That’s the problem with Greece – that every little clerk, the instructions of his boss in question. They say, however, Yes, Sir! ” and bow too. And the Germans say, I won ‘work hard and when the chief asked. That is why they have become rich countries. ” ISBN 978-3-404-61666-4 / Publisher: BASTION LÜBBE

Click here for the song from the musical.

Ouzo around the world

Is the ouzo industry too small to survive?

One of the problems facing ouzo is that it is generally produced by companies too small to help properly promote it.  It is indicative that at the recent ProWein international spirits trade show, there were only two companies with ouzo to show!   And of those, only ouzo Plomari the market leader in Greece, actually showed something new, the premium, triple distilled, “Adolo” brand of ouzo and a new brandy, (or whatever they are allowed to call it!), Pantheo.

As Andreas Mathidis, president of the Greek spirits association said, it is important that a major Greek brand represents the positive side of Greece, despite the bad publicity due to the economic climate.

Hey, just drink more ouzo and everything will seem great!



Ouzo factoids Ouzo production

A scientific exploration of why ouzo gets mirky with water

Spectroscopy at the service of your cocktail!

Here is the short version as I understand it: put the water first and then the ice.  Depending on how much alcohol the ouzo has it will react differently to extreme cooling.  Don’t overdo it cooling this drink because you then kill the aroma.

And here is the long version:

“Anethole is a rather nonpolar compound. The solubility of the ancthole contained in the Greek liqueur Ouzo is in a range in which the compound crystallizes out in the deep cold whereas it is still soluble in the beverage at room temperature. This effect can easily be observed in a Greek restaurant. When Ouzo is served as a well-chilled aperitif it appears cloudy due to precipitated ancthole crystals. On standing and warming, the cloudiness disappears by dissolution of ancthole in the aqueous ethanoL There is no other

Looks to me like the scientists had one too many ouzos!

flavour component in Ouzo which undergoes this change. Therefore, it can be used for a simple selective separation of ancthole just by filtration of the cold liqueur. However, it should be kept in mind that ancthole has a rather low melting point of 22 °C\ This has to be taken into consideration during any separation operations. All equipment used for filtration h3s to be precooled to avoid loss of ancthole by liquefaction.

It is not to recommend to cool the liqueur still more than described here because then water ice also begins to crystallize. If you cool several brands of Ouzo you will find that the degree of crystallization of ancthole is different, which gives a hint about its varying content in the liqueur.

3.2  Method

Λ 500 ml volume of Greek liqueur Ouzois allowed to cool in a deep freezer at -20 °C overnight. The viscosity of the solution increases. Anethole crystallizes in the form of colourless leaflets, A sintered glass filter funnel is precooled in the same freezer and used for the filtration operation. The Ouzo is filtered by suction, which requires 30 min because the glass filter easily tends to become blocked by the ancthole crystals. To avoid this, it is to recommended to scrape of] the material from the filler surface occasionally by means of a pre-eoolcd spatula. During filtration, the temperature at the funnel should not rise above -12 °t.   Finally, a colourless crystalline mass (300 mg) is scraped out of the sintered glass filler funnel, put into a glass vial and immediately evacuated with an oil pump at 20 Pa and 15 °C to remove traces of water and ethanol Colourless crystals of pure anethole (150 mg) remain in the vial, which, depending on the storage temperature, can be kept as a solid or a liquid.”

Ouzo production

Therapeutic qualities of aniseed: drink and then bathe in it!

It isn’t just the aroma of aniseed that gives ouzo that distinctive flavor.

“This spice possesses gas-relieving property. It is an excellent medicine for expelling wind from the stomach. It can also be taken, in combination with other digestive foods like ginger, cumin and pepper, in the form of an infusion.

An easy way to prepare the infusion is to mix a teaspoon of aniseed in a cup of boiling water and leave it covered overnight. The clear fluid is then decanted and taken with honey. This helps gurgling in the abdomen. This is also useful in preventing gas and fermentation in the stomach and the bowels.”

Hey, that is more or less how they distill ouzo so save yourself the trouble!  Here is another quote:

“Anise oil opens bronchial pathways so you can breath again. Commonly used in aromatherapy for breathing difficulties – anise oil may have a good effect on asthma as a natural asthma remedy. Anise oil is also excellent fish bait and is commonly used by fisherman to attract trout.   Pure Anise Oil is also noted as helpful for flatulence, impotence, painful periods, migraines and colic. Anise oil is best used in baths, massage oils, facials and in a diffuser.”

Right, so straight after drinking it we can pour some into our bath too!

Properties of Anise oil:

  • Main Constituent anethole (phenolether)
  • Carminative
  • Digestive
  • Promotes Harmony and Balance (Green)
  • Expectorant”
Ouzo production

Ouzo dimino – what a bad name for a drink!

ouzo museum lesvos

“Dimino” in greek means “every two months”.  Seems a rather bad name for ouzo, but here is a useful text about the Production Methods:   (Pardon the Google translation slip ups!)

“Small and big secrets of ouzo

Lisvori anise “Pimpinella anisum“, fennel “foeniculum vulgare miller“, the star anise, cinnamon, the coriander, cardamom (kakoules)  enter the ouzo making process stills to refine the spirit.

With ouzo, traditionally, the flavors are added through distilling the seeds in a solution of water and 100% ethyl alcohol from grape pomace.

The charm of the distillation

In traditional, hand crafted, copper stills we process  alcohol, grains and herbs for several hours. Then, the mixture is distilled and carefully controlled boiling and cooling the distillate. From the first distillation is separated and selected the “heart”, the most tasty part of the distillate, which is distilled a second time (redistillation) slowly with continuous inspection and testing. Before the double distilled “heart” is bottled, dilluted with soft water to ouzo, to obtain the desired alcoholic strength.

The clear spirit condusive to a smooth and sweet ouzo 100% distilled and aged for two months to tie all the flavors and give you the great taste.

The success of the recipe depends on the copper, the size and type of stills. The alcohol and aromatic plants will be added to determine final aroma and taste of the distillate. Each distiller has his own secret. That is the type and proportion of aromatic seeds used. Even in different fractions of the distillate to be used, the extraction prior to distillation, the size of the stills, etc.”

Note that the process referred to above as “the heart of the ouzo” during distillation is what has now become the first premium ouzo brand, called “Adolo” by the same company that makes the No1 Plomari – Isidoros Arvanitis ouzo.