Tastes like licorice

‘We want two Anis del Toro.’
‘Do you want it with water?’
‘I don’t know,’ the girl said. ‘Is it good with water?’
‘It’s all right.’
‘You want them with water?’ asked the woman.
‘Yes, with water.’
‘It tastes like licorice,’ the girl said and put the glass down.
‘That’s the way with everything.’
‘Yes,’ said the girl. ‘Everything tastes of licorice.’

            – Ernest Hemingway, “Hills Like White Elephants”

So what is with with the licorice, anyway?  We all know ouzo, of course (or at least we do if we spend much time around our house.)

But what’s surprising is when we move to Syria and find that the local liquor – the one they sell at the gift shops in nunneries and at the somewhat discreet Christian bottle shops in the old city – is anise-flavored arak, a sort of cross between Greek ouzo and its herb-infused moonshine cousin tsipouro.

Then we go to Ethiopia and lo and behold, the cheap local stuff manufactured by the National Alcohol & Liquor Factory right here in Addis is ouzo, too.  It even says so on the bottle.

But why is there an elk on the label?

But why is there an elk on the label?

Greeks have a long history in Ethiopia (you can be sure I’ll have more to say about that later) so I guess that’s where they got the idea.  And Greeks were in Syria, too.  And Syrians came to Ethiopia.  And Spain, where the Anis del Toro comes from, is just across from Morocco (in North Africa)… so….  this merits further research.

Wouldn’t you know, someone’s already done it.

That’s the way with everything. I’ll take mine straight, no water.

Thanks, Alekka, for pointing out the Hemingway passage; and Mr. Lucky, for teaching the short story form to grade 10.

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About lornaofarabia

I am a teacher from Medford, Oregon. I currently live and work in Cairo, Egypt.
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