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Everything You Need To Know About Rakia

There’s an old saying in Macedonia: "If you haven’t tried rakia while you were visiting the country, it’s like you haven’t visited the country at all!”

 

Rakia, or Rakija, is undoubtedly the most popular drink in Eastern Europe, specifically the Balkans. This type of brandy is deeply intertwined with the region’s history and culture, and aside from being a potent aperitif, it’s also known to boast several health benefits.

 

Interestingly enough, if you do decide to come to Macedonia and dine out, you’re most likely to be offered rakia, but you won’t get too much of an explanation of what it is! And once you see the little grimace everyone makes after they take a sip of it, you may feel intimidated to try it out yourself. Don’t worry - the grimace is actually a good thing!

 

In addition to wine, Tikves Lozova Rakija is considered a best-seller in the country (and beyond!), and for that reason, we’ve prepared an article for you for everything there is to know about the most popular Macedonian drink. Here, you’ll find its history and the vast array of types, ultimately enticing you to try out Macedonian rakia yourself!




What Is Rakia?

As previously mentioned, rakia is a type of brandy and is one of the most popular alcoholic drinks in the Balkans. It’s typically made from fruit along with other spices and ingredients and has a flavourful taste that some might consider rather strong.

 

However, be careful not to confuse rakia with the Turkish spirit “raki. While the former has a distinct fruity taste, the latter is mostly star anise-based and tastes similar to Greek ouzo or Italian sambuca.

 

Grape brandy is a staple in practically every Balkan household, and the reason why it’s steeped in the culture so much is because families tend to make it themselves. The beverage is typically drunk at celebrations and formal occasions, but it’s not uncommon to be given rakia at any given time! Due to its potency and packing flavour, Macedonian rakia is known to open up your appetite, and once you get a taste of it,  getting to stop may be a bit difficult to do! Still, always remember to practice moderation!



History of Rakia

Because the Balkans were practically one huge country in the past, there’s no exact origin where rakia comes from. It is believed to have been first produced in the late 12th century, and from that time, unique recipes have been passed through generations to this very day. Also, it was illegal to make rakia before, but many people used to make it in secret and swapped bottles with each other, which is why the drink is as diverse as ever! 

 

Interestingly enough, making rakia became legal in the mid 80s, as this was the time when the first official distilleries started opening up. From that point, new ones started emerging in the blink of an eye, all of which offered an authentic take on the iconic drink. However, now more than ever, there is a surging popularity of artisanal rakia, though some types have been dubbed rather strong, even for expert connoisseurs. With that in mind, if you want to have the best first try of this exceptional drink, we recommend you begin with the one-of-a-kind Tikves Lozova Rakija!



How Is Rakia Made?

The process of making rakia is generally the same for everyone, but because people use an array of different fruits, there’s not a certain method set in stone.

 

Namely, rakia is made from fermented fruits, with plums usually being the common base. Still, many different manufacturers use grapes, apples, pears, and even melons! The fruit is first picked and fermented, and then placed in a still to distill it. Once done, rakia is stored in oak barrels to age, similarly to what we see in whiskey, and it can remain in said barrels for years on end.

 

Again, most families have different methods of creating Macedonian rakia and getting your hands on a bottle may be a bit difficult since you need a local connection. Yes, the exchange of the drink is still the same as it was in the past, though it’s not so secretive anymore! Nevertheless, you can still sample what makes rakia so unique by opting for commercial producers, which will ultimately lead you to book a ticket and taste it in the place of origin yourself!



Types of Rakia

Given the drink’s diversity, it’s not uncommon to find hundreds of rakia varieties! And to make things even more interesting, some varieties aren’t even designed for drinking, but rather for medicinal purposes!

 

Since it’s impossible to round up all the rakia types, we’re highlighting a few of the most popular ones, best known for their powerful and tantalizing flavour:

 

  • Shljivovaca – this is undoubtedly one of the most common rakia types which is made from plums. It is known for its strong and sweet taste, and since it’s so widely produced, you can practically find it anywhere. Still, you must pick up a high-quality bottle, otherwise you’ll be left with a hangover of epic proportions!

  • Lozova – Lozova rakia is another popular rakia variety. Since it’s made from grapes, it is often a by-product of wine production. That said, if you like the taste of wine, you’ll surely love Tikves Lozova Rakija!

  • Travarica – Did you know that some people in the Balkans see rakia as the drink that can magically make illnesses go away? Although it may sound odd, rakia boasts several medicinal properties, especially herb-based varieties such as the Travarica. With that in mind, instead of going for the tried-and-tested painkiller, a little shot of this rakia just might the pain go away!


How To Drink Rakia?

Foreigners are known to make a simple, yet grave mistake when they’re first served rakia, ultimately making them avoid it the next time.

 

Namely, because rakia is served in a shot glass, some people believe they need to down it in one go. Although nothing’s stopping you from doing this, unless you want a hangover like never before, you might want to take a different approach.

 

Remember that grape brandy is rather strong – while the standard alcohol content sits at 40%, it’s not strange to find brews that go even up to 60%! Knowing this, take little sips of rakia gradually, and have a glass of sparkling water nearby. Because the taste can be quite gut-punching in the beginning, this will help you get adjusted to it. And as always, remember to be mindful of your drinking. We’re well aware of the tantalizing taste of Tikves Lozova Rakija, so it’s very easy to get carried away with it.



Tips For Drinking Rakia

You might want to know a few rakia facts before you drink it, to ensure the best experience. You don’t want to wake up with bells in your head the morning after now, don’t you?


1.Always Go For High-Quality Blends

 

As you already know, drinking bad rakia can make things go south rather quickly, which is why you should always aim to pick up a high-quality bottle. You can never go wrong with commercial manufacturers such as Tikves, but if you’re picking up an artisanal blend, you might want to do a small taste test beforehand to know exactly what you’re having.


2.Take Your Time

Again, don’t drink rakia as a shot if you don’t want your head to bang the next day. It is supposed to be drunk among friends in a relaxed environment, typically accompanied by great food. For the ultimate Macedonian experience, we recommend serving it with some Sopska Salad – a Meditteranean dish consisting of tomatoes, cucumber, goat cheese, and some olives!


3. Eat!

Speaking of food, make sure your tummy is full before you drink grape brandy. Since the drink is quite strong, even one glass can cause a terrible hangover. Luckily, rakia is excellent to drink while you’re eating and it will open up your appetite even further, making it the star of the show for your next dining experience!


4.Don’t Mix Rakia Types

Everyone knows that you shouldn’t mix alcohol types – the same applies to rakia, only in more serious terms. You can already imagine what might happen if you try to mix rakia types in a single day, so for your sake, have a smart timeline in place.


5.Enjoy it!

Rakia will surely get your spirits up, even though it may take some time to get adjusted to. With that, gather all your closest ones, pick up a few bottles of it, play your favourite music, and simply enjoy the pleasures rakia will give you. Ultimately, you’ll see why Macedonians are known to be some of the most cheerful people on the planet!

 

With that, you’ve learned all there is to know about Macedonia’s unique rakia. This is a drink that everyone should try at least once in their life, and fortunately for you, getting it has never been easier! Simply, order a bottle of Tikves Lozova Rakija on our site which will be promptly delivered to you, and enjoy it’s sweet, one-of-a-kind taste! Pleasure is most certainly guaranteed!

 

To find out more about Tikves and its vast assortment of wines, read the rest of our blogs!


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