It was never considered as a meal but rather as an appetizer before the main meal, or it was simply served as a snack or dinner with whatever was available in the kitchen and cellar.
Later the meze took the place of the main course in a ritual that lasts hours, usually accompanied with wine or another alcohol (as genuine descendants of the ancient Greek symposiums).The recipes for meze are endless, and have a separate chapter in the Greek gastronomy as well as the Eastern cuisine and can be as simple as a tomato with salt, a little cucumber and olives, as well as complexed and imaginative.
Previously the main drink of Greece was ouzo, at least on the islands and most of the tourist areas, an alcoholic beverage distilled from grapes flavored with up to 15 deferent herbs. Over the years, tsipouro started gaining ground and now the demand is greater than ouzo Tsipouro is usually an unflavored distillation, or flavored only with aniseed, and was at first made in small quantities in the villages for their own consumption.. It goes well with ice, as it has usually 40% alcohol, and always served with meze.
Long ago it was produced from mixing the pomace of vinification from different varieties of grapes; now the most common practice is to distill it only from one quality variety, or with the careful blending made only by wine experts. In Greece, there are over 200 different recipes, using a single variety from each area, and some using a different blend to obtain its own unique identity. In recent years producers began maturation processes. Today you can find in the market at least 20 different labels of aged tsipouro in oak barrels for up to 10 years old.
The Tsipouradika of Volos (tsipouro restaurants)
The "tradition" started by the refugees from Asia Minor; they settled in Volos after the genocide of 1922 Most of these settlers worked on boats, in the harbor and in factories since Volos was an industrial city.
The “tsipouradika” were born from the need of the workers to meet at a place to drink tsipouro after a hard day’s work. At first tsipouro was supplied mainly from Tirnavos and villages of Mount Pelion, drank straight as an aperitif without a meze before lunch, usually served with salted chickpeas.
The first meze that were served was very plain; grilled sundried octopus, pickled cabbage, and various salted fish served in small plates. Over time a new wave of refugees arrived from Asia Minor, the tradition was established, as the number of refugees grew. The same with the meze, they became better, more sophisticated, with seafood meze being most popular. The afternoon meeting after work in the Tsipouradika, with tsipouro served in little “portion” bottles and many small plates with delicacies of the sea was a ritual, and very soon became a daily habit. Today there are more than 300 tsipouradika in the region, filled every afternoon with the locals and tourists. It has become the main gastronomic attraction of Volos.
The serving process of meze goes as follows:
The customer orders the tsipouro, with or without anise, and it’s served with free small meze. After the shock from the first round of alcohol, the first dishes are simple, but quite strong in flavor to allow the palate to capture the taste. Then the meze soften in flavor, and become increasingly complex yet scrumptious, starting from small fish, and reaching up to shrimp, crayfish, fresh oysters and finally large fish (legend has it that a group of friends reached up to 75 rounds)
The cycle usually ends with a round of meat delicacies and sweets.