Fruit brandies are known by similar names in many languages of the Balkans: Bulgarian: , romanized: rakiya; Greek: ?, romanized: rakí [ra'ci]; Turkish: rak? (/r?:'ki:/, /r?:'ku:/, /r?:'k?:r/); Serbo-Croatian: rakija / ['r?kija]); Macedonian: , romanized: rakija; Albanian: rakia;. Similar drinks include sadjevec in Slovenia, '?uic? (or palinc?) in Romania, pálenka in Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic and pálinka (['pa:li?k?]) in Hungary.
Common flavours are ?ljivovica and ?uic?, produced from plums, kajsija, produced from apricots, or grozdova/lozova in Bulgaria (raki rrushi in Albania), or "lozova?a" or "komovica" in Croatia, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina produced from grapes, the same as "Zivania" in Cyprus. Fruits less commonly used are peaches, apples, pears, cherries, figs, blackberries, and quince. Similar spirits are produced in Romania, Moldova, Poland, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria 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, thanë (carnelian cherry), 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, Russia, North Macedonia, and Serbia is rakia produced from mixed fruits. In the Istrian and Dalmatian regions of Croatia, rakija 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).
It is supposed to be drunk from special small glasses which hold from 30 to 50 ml.
Greek ouzo (from grape) and tsipouro (from pomace), Turkish rak? (from sun dried grapes) and arak in Lebanon and Levant region differ from rakia as they are redistilled with some herbs (commonly anise). Some tsipouro in Greece is made without anise in the same manner as pomace rakia (or pomace brandy). "Bo?ma rak?" in Turkey (common name of the domestic raki which is produced at homes and villages) is similar to rakia in the Balkans.
Bulgaria cites an old piece of pottery from the 14th century in which the word rakiya (Bulgarian: ) is inscribed. The country has taken measures to declare the drink as a national drink in the European Union to allow lower excise duty domestically but has yet yielded no concrete results. During an archaeological study, Bulgarian archaeologists discovered an 11th-century fragment of a distillation vessel used for the production of rakiya. Due to the age of the fragment, contradicting the idea that rakiya production only began in the 16th century, some historians believe this indicates that rakiya did originally come from Bulgaria. The EU, recognizes 12 brands of Bulgarian rakia as produced traditionally in the country and protects them via PDO and PGI marks, which protect the name of a product, which is from a specific region and follow a particular traditional production process.
Rakija (Serbian Cyrillic: ) is one of the most popular alcoholic drinks in Serbia. It is the national drink of Serbia. According to Dragan ?uri?, President of the Association of Producers of Natural Spirits, the EU protects the names of beverages by allowing the prefix Serbian. In Serbia there are 10,000 private producers of rakia. 2,000 are on the official register and only about a hundred cellars produce high-quality brandy.
Rakija is the most popular spirit in Croatia. Travarica (herbal rakija) 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 Rakija, some typical for only one island or group of islands. The island Hvar is famous for Rakija with the addition of Myrtus (mrtina -- bitter and dark brown). Southern islands, such as Kor?ula, and the city of Dubrovnik are famous for Rakija with anise (aniseta), and in central Dalmatia the most popular rakia is Rakija with walnuts (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 Rakija 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. In the interior of the country a spirit called ?ljivovica (shlivovitza) is made from plums, and one called viljamovka (viliam-ovka) is made from Williams pears. As is the case with Bulgaria, Croatia enjoys protected status of 3 rakia products, granted by the EU via PGI status, making it the only other country to have such protected rakia products.
Raki or rak? (, , , Turkish pronunciation: [?a'k?]) is an unsweetened, occasionally (depending on area of production) anise-flavoured, alcoholic drink that is popular in Greece (where it is distinctly different and comes as an unflavoured distillate, unlike its Turkish counterpart), Iran, Turkic countries, and in the Balkan countries as an apéritif. It is often served with seafood or meze. It is comparable to several other alcoholic beverages available around the Mediterranean and the Middle East, e.g. pastis, ouzo, sambuca, arak and aguardiente. In Turkey, it is considered a national drink.
Rakija (Macedonian: ) is one of the most popular spirits in North Macedonia, the most common types are yellow and white grape rakija. It's served with salad as an appetizer (traditionally shopska salad) or white cheese. Tikves winery makes the most famous rakija which is made in Kavadarci. A lot of Macedonian people make homemade white rakija with natural process from grape distillate and add anise which gives sweetness. In industrial production, the percentage of alcohol in rakija is between 40 and 45 percent, but in domestic production, this percentage can be more than 60.
In Romania and Moldova, the related word rachiu or rachie is used to refer to a similar alcoholic beverage as these neighboring countries, often a strong fruit-based brandy, usually from grapes. However, the more commonly used terms for similar popular beverages are ?uic? and palinc?; ?uic? in particular is prepared only from plums. Additionally, the regional term vinars (literally "burnt-wine") in Romania, and divin in Moldova, can refer to brandy in general as well.
In Bulgaria, rakia is generally served with shopska salad, yogurt 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.
In summer, rakia is usually served ice cold, while in winter it's served "cooked" (Serbian: / kuvana or ? / grejana, Bulgarian: (greyana), Croatian: kuhana, rakia (also called ?umadija tea in Serbia). Rakia 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).
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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 (poga?a) and a glass of rakia. When drinking "for the soul" of the deceased, one spills some rakia on the ground, saying "For the 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.
There are many kinds of rakia, depending on the fruit it is produced from:
|Fruits||in Bulgaria||in Bosnia, Croatia, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia|
|plum (slivovitz)||? (slivova) (slivovitsa)||?ljivovica, , ,|
|peach||? (praskovena)||rakija od breskve, ?, breskavica|
|pear||?o (krushova)||kru?kova?a/vilijamovka, ?/,|
|mulberry||(chernicheva)||dudova rakija/dudova?a/dudara, //|
|mixed fruits||? (plodova)||-|
|with sour cherries||(vishnovka)||vi?njevac/vi?njeva?a,|
|with herbs||? (bilkova)||travarica, /trava|
|with honey **||(medena)||medenica, medova?a, medica, zamedljana (very popular in Istria - a region in Croatia), /medova?a,|
|with anise||(anasonliyka)||mastika, ?|
* Kom or komina 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.
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