The Evaporation of Ouzo

Ouzo is an aperitif made up of ethanol (alcohol), water, and anise oil. This three-part, or ternary, mixture undergoes an intriguing evaporation process thanks to the characteristics of its components. An ouzo drop’s evaporation can be divided into four phases, each shown above. Initially, the drop is well-mixed and transparent (upper left). 

Since ethanol is the most volatile of ouzo’s components, it evaporates the most quickly. As the ethanol evaporates, the drop becomes oversaturated with oil (upper right). Oil droplets form, giving the ouzo a milky appearance. At the same time, the ethanol evaporating causes gradients in surface tension, which drive a vigorous Marangoni flow inside the drop. 

Eventually, the ethanol finishes evaporating and the oil drops collect in a ring around the outside of the drop (lower left). Slowly, the water inside the drop evaporates. Eventually, a tiny microdroplet of water is left to dissolve in the anise oil (lower right). (Image and research credit: H. Tan et al., source; via Inkfish)

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