In the production of must to wine, one would believe that the grapes, after being pressed and having given up their precious juice, end up their course. However, this does not apply to the residents of Trikala who produce out of a raw material that apparently is of no more use, the most popular Trikalian alcoholic beverage with the distinct smell and intense flavor. This is nothing else than the legendary tsipouro of Trikala, a beverage very prominent not only in all the Trikalian households, but also in the wider area. It is the “medicine” for the elderly, as well as an alternative preference for the younger who can enjoy it, initiating into its secrets, in the numerous tsipouro and coffee places.
The elders advise that “one must learn how to drink tsipouro”, meaning the special way of serving and consuming it in order to avoid the unpleasant side effects of intoxication.
Tsipouro is traditionally served in typical small glass bottles of 50 ml, which constitute the ideal quantity for a normal drinker. Only a small quantity of tsipouro enters the typical glass and is consumed after being mixed with water or ice. The consumption is performed slowly, with devoutness. Each sip is accompanied with a small mouthful of the appropriate delicacy, the typical appetizer, nothing less than a variety of local meat dishes, village sausages, feta (the famous Greek white cheese) and vegetables. Such a rich in fats appetizer with intense flavor balances ideally with the sharpness of tsipouro.
Tsipouro is inextricably associated with the everyday life of the residents of Trikala, from the plains to the heart of Pindus Mountain Range and the highest peaks – a loyal companion to sorrows and harsh living conditions, a fellow traveler to lonely paths, a connective link in companies and constantly present in joy.
The procedure of its production resembles a feast, lasting from mid-October to late-November, where the residents of Trikala, in a rejoicing and blissful mood, betake to the local distilleries for its distillation. In the old days, each village used to have at least one such big “cauldron”, another vernacular term for the distillery spots which nowadays have been replaced by modern licensed distilleries.
The distillation procedure is simple and timeless; the grape remnants are put into the cauldron, which is then sealed with a lid that is linked on the one side with a long curved pipe which, passing through cold water, ends on a pot where tsipouro is concentrated.
The fire kindles, the grape remnants boil, the generated vapors are directed inside the long pipe and after passing through the cold water they condense so that the “precious water” makes its appearance. Its concentration becomes patiently, drop by drop while the first trial constitutes a sacred moment.
The production has now begun and since the fire lights, it doesn’t stop till the last drop falls into the pot. It is indeed a most tiring, whereas pleasant all the while procedure, which lasts for days with the constant presence of people who change in shifts, day and night. Nevertheless, still it makes up a cause for celebration and a meeting point for friends and relatives, a benchmark for the wider area and sweet memory following every sip.