Rakia

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Plum rakia from the region of Elena, Bulgaria

Rakia (also Rakija or Rachiu) is a popular alcoholic beverage in the Balkans produced by distillation of fermented fruit. The alcohol content of rakia is normally 40% ABV, but home-produced rakia can be stronger (typically 50% to 60%). Rakia is widely considered to be а national drink of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

Origins[edit]

Damson plums used to make rakia

It was believed that rakia was first created in the 16th century in the Balkans, the location unknown, but the recent discovery of wording on on a sherd of pottery (Аз пих ракиня на празника - I drank rakinja at the celebration (rakinja being the old word for rakia) indicates its presence in 14th century Bulgaria. This discovery may strengthen the case for rakia's Bulgarian origins and allow its designation by the European Union as a national drink, with a consequent allowance to lower excise duty domestically.[1] It is unknown if on the current source the spirit proposed is actually the distilled version, or what method of distillation was used.

Variant names[edit]

Many countries produce similar fruit brandies which are listed here by their local names:

Overview[edit]

Traditional distillation of rakia in Bulgaria

Common flavours are slivovica, produced from plums, kajsija, produced from apricots, or grozdova/lozova, produced from grapes. Fruits less commonly used are peaches, apples, pears, cherries, figs, blackberries, and quince. Similar spirits are produced in Romania, Moldova, Russia and the Caucasus. In Albania, rakia is most commonly made out of grapes in mild climate regions and out of plums (and sometimes out of mulberry or walnuts) in colder climate areas.

Plum and grape rakia are sometimes mixed with other ingredients, such as herbs, honey, sour cherries and walnuts, after distillation. A popular home-made variant in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Serbia is rakia produced from mixed fruits. In the Istrian and Dalmatian regions of Croatia, rakia tends to be home-made exclusively from grapes, where the drink is also known locally as trapa or grappa (the latter name also being used in Italy).

Normally, rakia is colorless, unless herbs or other ingredients are added. Some types of rakia are kept in wooden barrels (oak or mulberry) for extra aroma and a golden color.

It is supposed to be drunk from special small glasses which hold from 0.03 to 0.05 L.

A popular myth is that one can tell the strength of rakia by the size of the ring of bubbles (venac) which forms when the bottle is well shaken. This is also mistakenly used as a measure of the quality of the liquor.

Greek Ouzo (from grape) and Tsipouro (from pomace), Turkish Rakı (from sun dried grapes) and Arak at Arabic and middle eastern countries differ from rakia as they are redistilled with some herbs (commonly Anise). Some Tsipuro in Greece are made without anise in the same manner as pomace rakia (or pomace brandy). "Boğma raki" in Turkey (common name of the domestic raki which is produced at homes and villages) is similar to rakia in the Balkans but it not as popular as it is not legal in Turkey.

Local varieties[edit]

Žganica - a kind of peach rakia from Međimurje County, northern Croatia

Albanian rakia[edit]

Raki (definite Albanian form: rakia) (a type of rakia) is a traditional Albanian drink.[2] In the Ottoman Empire, until the 19th century, meyhanes would serve wine along with meze.[3] Although there were many Muslims visited meyhane, sharia authorities could, at times, prosecute them. With the relatively liberal atmosphere of the Tanzimat Period (1839–1876), meyhane attendance among Muslims rose considerably and rakia became a favourite among meyhane-goers. By the end of the century, rakia took its current standard form and its consumption surpassed that of wine.

The Albanian raki is made from fermented and distilled fruit, particularly grapes and plums.[2] Albanian raki contains no aniseed and its taste varies according to the fruit used to make it. The process of making rakia is exceptionally difficult, requiring much labor to mash the fruit, ferment it under the proper conditions, ensure the correct amount of fire under the distillery barrel and finally to infuse the final product with leaves from the apple tree.

Croatian rakija[edit]

Croatian šljivovica and Slovenian slivovka, two names for the same drink (plum rakia)

Rakia is the most popular spirit in Croatia.[4] Travarica (herbal rakia) is usually served at the beginning of the meal, together with dried figs. The Croatian Adriatic coast is known for a great variety of herbal grappas, some typical for only one island or group of islands. The island Hvar is famous for grappa with the addition of Myrtus (mrtina — bitter and dark brown). Southern islands, such as Korčula, and the city of Dubrovnik are famous for grappa with anise (aniseta), and in central Dalmatia the most popular rakia is grappa with nuts (orahovica). It's usually homemade, and served with dry cookies or dried figs. In the summer, it's very typical to see huge glass jars of grappa with nuts steeping in the liquid on every balcony, because the process requires the exposure of orahovica to the sun. In the northern Adriatic — mainly Istria — rakia is typically made of honey (medica) or mistletoe (biska). Biska, which is yellow-brown and sweet, is a typical liquor of Istria.

Serbian rakija[edit]

Quince rakija from Serbia in traditional flasks

Rakia is one of the most popular alcoholic drinks in Serbia.[5] It is usually served before lunch and dinner and is drunk along with appetizers. It is mandatory to drink with roasted pig, lamb, or dried meat. It is a very important part of the Albanian and Serbian cultures and there are many historians that say that the origins of rakia are in Serbia. Serbia has the most consumption of rakia per capita and is the largest exporter of rakia. In a 2009 European Court ruling, the names "Slivovica" (Slivovitz/Шљивовица), Dunjevaca (Дуњевача), Orahovaca (Ораховача), and Kruskovaca (Крушковача) were ruled to be Serbian and thus the country has a trademark on those three types of rakia (Slivovitz being the most famous and most consumed in the world). In Serbia there is 10.000 private producers of rakia today with 2.000 in official register[6]

Rakia is a big part of Serbian culture. It is part of many special occasions, including baptisms, marriages, joining of the army, and visiting of friends. At funerals, custom demands that a bottle of rakia be left on the grave of the deceased who liked to drink it, or at least to sprinkle a drop or two during the memorial service for peace of the person’s soul. For some peasants, a flask of rakia is one’s only luggage. Poor peasants even offer the village doctor, policeman, judge, tax collector, or minister a flask of rakia as a gift of payment, or as bribe. Many folk songs have been composed about rakia production and consumption.

Serving[edit]

In Bulgaria and Macedonia, rakia is generally served with shopska salad, milk salad, pickled vegetables (turshiya) or other salads, which form the first course of the meal. Muskatova rakia is made from Muscat grapes, while the preparation method of dzhibrova rakia is the same as for Italian Grappa.

Another popular way of serving is "cooked" (Croatian: kuhana, Serbian: kuvana or grejana, Bulgarian: греяна (grejana), Macedonian: греена or топла) rakia (also called Šumadija tea in Serbia), which is heated and sweetened with honey or sugar, with added spices. Heated in large kettles, it is often offered to visitors to various open-air festivities, especially in winter. It is similar to mulled wine, as weaker brands of rakia are used (or stronger ones diluted with water).

Ritual use[edit]

Although wine is the essential part of the Eucharist rite in the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches in the region, rakia has found uses in certain religious and related rituals across the Balkans.

At the end of the Orthodox Christian burial service, at the exit from the cemetery, visitors are offered a piece of soda bread (pogača) and a glass of rakia. When drinking "for the soul" of the deceased, one spills some rakia on the ground, saying "For peaceful rest of the soul", before drinking the rest.

During wedding ceremonies, the groom's father goes around all tables and offers a glass of rakia to all guests, sharing a toast for the happiness of the newlyweds. In general, in the Balkans, rakia is offered to guests in one's home as a welcoming gesture.

Types[edit]

There are many kinds of rakia, depending on the fruit it is produced from:

Fruitsin Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbiain Macedoniain Bulgaria
Basic types
plum (slivovitz)šljivovica, шљивовицасливова (шливка) ракија (slivova rakija)сливова (slivova)
сливовица (slivovitsa)
grapeslozovača/loza, лозова ракија/лозовача/лозалозова ракија (lozova rakija)гроздова (grozdova)
гроздовица (grozdovitsa)
мускатова (muskatova)
grape pomace
(kom) *
komovica, комова ракија/комовицакомова ракија (komova rakija)джиброва (dzhibrova)
джибровица (dzhibrovitsa)
шльокавица (shlyokavitsa)
apricotmareličarka, kajsijevača, кајсијевачаракија од кајсии (rakija od kajsii)кайсиева (kaysieva)
peachrakija od breskve ракија од брескверакија од праски (rakija od praski)прасковена (praskovena)
pearkruškovača/vilijamovka, крушковача/виљамовка,крушкаракија од круши (rakija od kruši)крушoва (krushova)
applejabukovača, јабуковачајаболкова ракија (jabolkova rakija)ябълкова (yabalkova)
mulberrydudova rakija/dudovača/dudara, дудова ракија/дудовача/дудараракија од црница (rakija od crnica)черничева (chernicheva)
quincedunjevača, дуњевачаракија од дуња (rakija od dunja)дюлева (dyuleva)
figsmokvovača, смоквачаракија од смоква (rakija od smokva)смокинова (smokinova)
cherryvišnjevačaцрешова ракија (crešova rakija)черешова (chereshova)
plankdaskovača,(rakija od trule daske)
mixed fruits-плодова (plodova)
With additions
with rosesružicaгюлова (gyulova)
with herbstravarica, траварица/travaбилна ракија (bilna rakija)билкова (bilkova)
with juniperklekovača, клековача
with walnutsorahovača, ораховача/orahovicaракија од орев (rakija od orev)орехова (orehova)
with honey **medenica, medovača, medica, zamedljana (very popular in Istria - a region in Croatia), медовача/medovača,ракија со мед (rakija so med)медена (medena)
with sour cherriesvišnjevac/višnjevača, вишњевачаракија од вишни (rakija od višni)вишновка (vishnovka)
with aniseанасонка (anasonka)анасонлийка (anasonliyka)

  *   Kom or džibra is the fruity grape mash that remains after winemaking. It contains up to 5.5 litres of pure alcohol per 100 kg, and at least 40% dry matter.
  **  Not to be confused with mead, which is made solely of honey.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Veselina Angelova, Liliya Tsatcheva (October 10, 2011). "An Archeologist Has Proved It - Rakia is Bulgarian". Trud. Retrieved October 10, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b "Encyclopedia Britannica". Retrieved 4 September 2013. 
  3. ^ Music of the Sirens, Inna Naroditskaya, Linda Phyllis Austern, Indiana University Press, p.290
  4. ^ "Hrvati najradije od svih žestokih pića piju rakiju". Večernji list (in Croatian). 28 July 2012. Retrieved 23 August 2012. 
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ [2]

External links[edit]