Rakia or rakija (raki, rakija, ракия, rakia, rakija, ρακί, pálinka, ракија/rakija, rachiu (reg. răchie), ракија / rakija, pálenka, žganje, rakı) is similar to brandy, made by distillation of fermented fruits, popular throughout the Balkans, Italy and France. Its alcohol content is normally 40%, but home-produced rakia can be stronger, typically 50 to 60%. Prepečenica is double-distilled rakia, with alcohol content sometimes exceeding 60%.
Rakia is considered to be the national drink among some of the South Slavic peoples. Common flavours are slivovitz, produced from plums and grozdova, made from grapes. Fruits less commonly used are peaches, apricots, apples, pears, cherry, figs, and quinces. There is a mixed fruits rakia in Serbia, Bulgaria also. In Istria, however, rakia is made exclusively from grapes, where the drink is also known locally as trapa or grappa (the latter name also being used in Italy). Plum and grape rakia are sometimes mixed with other ingredients, such as herbs, honey, sour cherries and walnuts, after distillation.
There are many kinds of rakia, depending on the fruit it is produced from:
|Fruits||in former Yugoslavia||in Bulgaria|
|plum (slivovitz)||šljivovica, шљивовица,шљива|| сливова (slivova)|
|grapes||lozovača/loza, лозова ракија/лозовача/лоза|| гроздова (grozdova)|
мускатова (muskatova) mrtina (with myrrh)
анасонлийка (anasonliyka) (with anise)
| grape pomace |
|komovica, комова ракија/комовица|| джиброва (dzhibrova)|
|apricot||kajsijevača, кајсијевача||кайсиева (kajsieva)|
|pear||kruškovača/vilijamovka, крушковача/виљамовка,крушка||крушoва (krushova)|
|apple||jabukovača, јабуковача||ябълкова (jabylkova)|
|mulberry||dudova rakija/dudovaca/dudara, дудова ракија/дудовача/дудара||черничева (chernicheva)|
|quince||dunjevača, дуњевача||дюлева (dyuleva)|
|fig||smokvovača, смоквача||смокинова (smokinova)|
|mixed fruits||-||плодова (plodova)|
|with roses||-||гюлова (gyulova)|
|with herbs||travarica, траварица/trava||bilkova) |
|with walnuts||orahovača, ораховача/orahovica||орехче (orehche)|
|with honey **||medovača, медовача/medenica, medica — very popular in Istria - a region in Croatia||медна (medna)|
|with sour cherries||višnjevac/višnjevača, вишњевача||-|
* 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.
It is supposed to be drunk from special small glasses which hold from 0.3 to 0.5 dl.
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.
In Bulgaria and Republic of 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 rakiya is made from Muscat grapes, while the preparation method of dzhibrova rakiya is the same as for Italian Grappa.
In Croatia, 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 myrrh (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.
Another popular way of serving is "cooked" (kuvana or greyana) 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).
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 (in Romanian, "Dumnezeu să-i primească" (May God receive this for her/him), 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.