I know. I was supposed to write about the gyro but because there was a tsipouro contest I found it appropriate that I should do a story on that instead and leave the gyro for another time. Besides, now that my head swelled to rocky mountain proportions (after wining the tsipouro contest) I’m well on my way of finally gaining the recognition that my therapist and mother think I deserve. Cosmos Philly is just a stepping stone for bigger and better things that the future has reserved for me.
By the way, what’s up with that second coffee article on Cosmos Philly anyway? Anyone know of a good LAWYER? I want to sue this guy. This is what we call “Πνευματικη Ιδιοκτισια” in Greece. All I will say is that this guy is very lucky were not in Greece because if we lived there I would of gotten my friend’s father who’s a politician to pass a law and throw his butt in jail! So now that I’m writing an article about tsipouro what’s this guy gonna do? Write something about… Raki?
Sorry for venting but I just had to get this off of my chest. Anyway back to our topic. Have you ever watched the moonshiners on TV? It’s about these rural southerners who make moonshine out of corn and how the cat and mouse game unfolds with the local police. There are some interesting characters on this show and as you listen to them speak English you see the “translation” scrolling on the bottom of the screen in… English.
Not to be outdone by our southern countrymen we have an interesting group of Greek moonshiners in our area. The dialect is Grenglish and the drama unfolds in similar fashion as in the show with one exception: Those who DON’T speak proper English from the south make moonshine for profit. The Greeks who DON’T speak proper English from the Northeast do it for something more valuable. Bragging rights.
For years now the Greek moonshiners would have endless arguments about tsipouro and how it should taste, the alcohol content, the aroma and if it should have an anise flavor (like ouzo) or not (like grappa) Generally those from Macedonia and Thessaly like the tsipouro with the anise flavor while those that hail from Epirus, Southern Greece and Crete prefer it without.
One day during an outing at the Pontian Society (remember, the only place that were allowed to go to) one guy says that our differences can only be settled with a tsipouro contest. So the next three months are spent on the phone arguing about how the contest should be run. The requirements to be a judge are set so high that even a supreme court justice doesn’t stand a chance. One requirement is that the judge has to be a “Merakli”. For those who didn’t make it through St. Demetrios Greek school “meraklis” is one who is passionate about food, music and booze among a myriad of other things. If you don’t have passion you are a “Ksenerwtos”. Ksenerwtos is the guy that doesn’t smoke, eats only fruits vegetables and unseasoned chicken breast, gets up at 6 am to go jogging and didn’t go see Vasili Karra in A.C. He’s not passionate, thinks lamb has a funny taste and has never tasted kokoretsi or patsa.
Then we have the judges who like sleek politicians have learned to “play” the tsipouro makers. They will tell EVERY contestant that they make the best tsipouro in the world. In return they get a free lifetime supply of booze not to mention invitations to backyard BBQ’s, our daughter’s wedding and free tickets to sporting events. Yes sir, tell a tsipouro maker he’s got the best tsipouro in the world and doors you didn’t know existed will start opening for you. Try this next time when you’re vacationing in Greece: Get in a cab and ask the cabbie to take you to a“TSIPOURADIKO”. Chances are the that he will rip you off but that’s okay because you will make it up soon. Once there order some mezedes and homemade tsipouro. Then ask that you want to speak to the owner and when he comes over say :”THIS IS THE BEST TSIPOURO I HAVE EVER TASTED. That’s it! You are now friends for life. He will comp your food send you home with a 1 ½ liter water bottle of tsipouro and will ask you to come back and eat again for free the next day! Who’s the “Amerikanaki” now hmmm?
Then there’s the whole secrecy thing. We are what I call WMITI’S because we are Withholding Most Important Tsipouro Information. That good Christian sitting on the front pew in Church every Sunday morning has no problem lying if asked how he made his tsipouro. “So what grapes are you using this year Costa?” I’m asked and I reply “Pinot and Malvoise”. Yea, ok. The person you are telling this to knows your lying and they reply “I will use Muscats and Thompsons” and you know full well that’s bologne as well. These guys withhold information better than a CIA agent and have no problem looking straight into your eyes and saying “my tsipouro didn’t turn out that great this year”. If you hear this, you better start running because that guy has just made some unbelievable stuff and wants to make a fool out of you at the contest.
Once you have your rehearsed story down you can manipulate the other Greek tsipouro contestants. “Did you go for grapes yet ?” Nah, didn’t have the time, I might go next week”. “How many cases will you buy this year ? “8 I think”, LIAR, I saw your wife at the Greek festival and she said that her car doesn’t fit in the garage from all the cases of grapes in there.
Now to the contest. The participants must arrive early so that they can give samples of their “stuff”. Once that is done the “trash talking” begins. The atmosphere has the appearance of being festive but we all know that there will be one winner and some unhappy individuals once this is over. The losers will have something to complain about and will request changes to the rules for the following year.
For more on the tsipouro night check it out here and wish that next year’s event is bigger better and that… I come through with the first prize again!