Enjoy the first round, and taste the food. The first servings are usually potato salad, pickles and anchovies, or some similar kind of small fish. Once you are ready, order another round. You won’t actually have to speak, or even get a waiter near you. Just catch the eye of the closest, and swirl your finger in the air. That’s the universally accepted signal for ‘giro’ – another round.

More bottles will come, typically one per person, though there are some who take two at once. With the new bottles, a new round of dishes, always to share amongst the people at your table, always freshly cooked, and mostly fresh from the bay of Volos itself.

tsipouro4

That is the way of Tsipouro in these parts; sit on your rickety chair in a loud, lively place by a gorgeous gulf view, and enjoy glass after glass of powerful spirits alongside local delicacies, and fresh fish dishes.

Traditionally, there is a rather strict escalation of dishes: the first rounds will see more filling foods, with pickled or fresh anchovies, fried or grilled local catch, live oysters and other shellfish, cheese pies and fresh salads. If you have a couple of strong drinkers at your table, and feel like progressing into the fourth or fifth rounds, you’ll enjoy grilled crab, lobster and sides of cod.

[quote_box_right]Tsipouro is a clean, powerful spirit. It provides a healthy buzz and very rarely burdens with headaches if consumed in moderation, at a leisurely pace as you take your time admiring the view and population of the sun-kissed beaches that launched the Argos such a long time ago.[/quote_box_right]

The seventh to tenth rounds are for professional drinkers only, but remember that most modern establishments will break the rules, and allow you to order any side or main dish that you see prepared for the day as well.

Finally, the mark of distinction for any serious tsipouro aficionado is to have the owner of the place come to your table, and ask you to order anything you like, because you have surpassed their prepared menu. It is generally considered good manners to order some of your favorite dishes from the meal, and compliment him on the service. This happens around the twelfth to fourteenth round.

Quite aside from the masculine, competitive side of it, a tsipouro meal of two to four rounds is a refreshing experience that will prove both fulfilling and cheap. At about four euros per round, you’ll be getting a full fish meal with spirits for under 20 euros a person. That is hard value to beat anywhere.

Visiting Thessaly and not stopping by Volos, or one of the smaller villages along the coast, and not stopping to sample the delicacies and delicious spirits of a local tsipouradiko is a touristic crime that deserves nothing less than instant extradition.

It’s only after looking around the bright, sun-swept surroundings that usually feature endless swatches of peaceful, glittering seas, that one can come to truly appreciate just how much slower and delectable life should be. Yamas!

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Bella isn't Bella's real name, but Swindon comes dangerously close to being her real last name. She's our resident traveling reporter, and will be checking in with her stories from all over the world. If only she weren't so camera shy...

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