Rakia – Everything you wanted to know about this drink

You must have heard of Rakia (or Rakija) at one point in your life, if not it is a extremely popular fruit brandy among South Slavs. Dubbed as a South Slavic version of Vodka, it’s a drink that will make you forget all other drinks. It’s especially popular in Serbia, Bulgaria, Croatia, B&H, Macedonia and Montenegro, however it found it’s way to the hearts of non-Slavic nations in Balkans as well, like Romania, Albania and similar. We of course talk here about home-produced rakia (not something commercial) and home made rakia alcohol content is typically 50% to 80% but many like to produce it as high as 90% at times. Interested enough?

rakija stand

History of Rakia

It is not certain what are the origins of this drink however some consider it has derived to Balkans thanks to middle eastern influence during Ottoman Empire. It was developed in Balkans and some archaeological evidence have found oldest rakia distillation container in the town Ivaylovgrad in Bulgaria. There were reports of Ottoman commanders that led siege of Bulgarian Sofia that they encountered heavy resistance and “the defense of the city was entrusted to strong, healthy Bulgarians “with mustaches” that before battle drank rakia and so became invincible”. All these facts suggest rakia was consumed among Slavs, in particularity Bulgarians already in XI century AD. So if you want to be invincible and feel no pain and all, drink Rakia!

Medieval wars in bulgaria

Recipe – how to make rakia

The best is to choose plums that fell from the tree due to maturity. Every 2 to 3 days gather plums from the orchard and fill barells. You could add 1 – 2% of sugar in order to speed up the fermentation. The container with fruits should be closed but not hermetically. Barrel should not be filled to the top, you should leave up to 20 cm empty.  

rakia plums

Unless the weather is rather odd, the fermentation lasts 21 days. When the plum marc is ready, stir it and then place the cauldron and begin cooking the rakia. Into the clean, washed cauldron pour 3 – 4 liters of water and pour the marc from the barrel.

filling caludrion rakia

Since the seeds of plums are heavy and stay at the bottom while boiling, what remains at the bottom drain through a sieve. Next, cover the cauldron and seal it with corn flour dough. Maintain strong fire until it begins to boil, and then the fire can die down, but it should be kept at a temperature for the stream of rakia that comes to the boiler pipe should be as a thread (not more). The strength of soft rakia which comes out is to be under 12 gradi.

making rakia

The vessel through which rakia is cooled should be allowed to warm up to 10 cm from the top. If it overheats add cold water. When the soft rakia is prepared, give the cauldron a good wash, and pour in one half soft rakia and one half off water. The twice cooked liquid that comes out is poured out until rakia is not 21 -22 of strength in measures of grad. Brandy is then placed in clean barrels and should wait at least one month before consuming. The longer it ages the better.

rakia barrels

Komova rakia is prepared the same as sljivovica, except it is made from the mash that is left out of grapes for wine with the addition of up to 5% sugar. Grape rakia is about the same as the previous two, except that the used mash is pure grape.