Ouzo

If the drinks dotted liberally through Against the Day represent a boozy symphony, ouzo appears as a major-key motif late in the piece. We first find Cyprian drinking it among “fair limbs and spring sunrises” in Salonica:

“It was the absence of all hesitation here that impressed Cyprian, setting aside the ouzo and hashish whose molecular products, occupying by now every brain cell, discouraged careful analysis.”

Against the Day, p. 844.

A bit further down the line and on the other side of Greece, Yashmeet and Reef, plus little baby Ljubica, are easing into the “radiant sunshine” of Corfu. One afternoon, Yashmeen runs into her dad Auberon, who has somehow figured out they’re there.

They sat and drank ouzo in the twilight. Up at the old Venetian fort the evening gun went off. Breezes stirred the cypresses and olive trees. Corfiots strolled to and fro.

Against the Day, p. 973.

Very pleasant stuff! They meet Auberon’s new girlfriend and the evening continues:

They found Reef in a taverna, down by the harbour in Garitsa. Ljubica, now pushing the age of one and newly up on her feet, held on to a barstool and with a lopsided smile that suggested this was nothing new, regarded her father drinking ouzo and acquainting Corfiots with the intricacies of Leadville Fan-Tan.

Against the Day, p. 975.

They then proceed to eat a nice stew that I had a crack at here some years back. Hanging out with your dad’s new girlfriend has never gone so smoothly! Seems like an altogether delightful evening—one of the islands of peace and familial harmony Pynchon occasionally affords his characters, not uncommonly in a taverna.

Well it’s a summer evening here too and I may be 15 000 km from Corfu, but the ouzo goes down just as smoothly. The bottle (Eros Ouzo) only held four shots, now about to be exhausted. I’ve mixed it with soda water and added some lemon. It tastes mostly of aniseed, but softly, without becoming vegetal or harsh. There’s a light sweetness. It goes very nicely with late afternoon summer sunshine.

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