Several years ago I was in a restaurant somewhere in the United States – I forget where – and one of the menu choices was “Greek coffee.” Expecting Greek coffee as I know it, I was disappointed to get a cup of regular (“American”) coffee with Ouzo in it. The experience reminded me of the final scene of the movie Goodfellas, which Ray Liotta – who plays Henry Hill, a mobster in the witness protection program – narrates. “Right after I got here [to an undisclosed relocation somewhere in the Midwest], I ordered some spaghetti with marinara sauce and I got egg noodles and ketchup.”
Nonetheless, the concoction wasn’t awful – and neither was the Ouzo I added to Greek coffee at many a Greek wedding reception over the years, when it was part of the dessert hour offerings. But even though I like coffee – Greek or American – as well as Ouzo, the two don’t seem to blend well together, like chocolate and peanut butter – or, closer to the concept, espresso and Sambuca.
As Ouzo drinkers well know, strange things begin to happen to it when it mixes with another liquid (such as water – notice the change to a hazy hue). So, for some reason, when given the option of mixing coffee with an anise-based aperitif, I prefer espresso, and actually with Anisette over Sambuca.
But if the coffee is Greek, the aperitif should be, too – and rather than Ouzo, its cousin, Raki, might be the better choice. Also known as Tsipouro throughout much of mainland Greece and Tsigoudia in Crete, “Raki” is the Turkish name of the drink most used on the islands – such as the Dodecanese – close to Turkey.
Though it is available with Anise flavoring as well, I would recommend it without the Anise, especially if your Greek coffee is already pre-sweetened (a “metrio” “variglyko” or “glykivrasto” for instance).
That way, you won’t see any Anise crystallizing in the coffee. Besides, in most cases, you’ll be having this with dessert – which is sweet enough, anyway.