“A man is not drunk if he can lay on the ground and not holding himself to anything”. Dean Martin
History of Rakija
The word “Rakija” has Arabic origin from a word “Al-rak” which free translated means sweat. In 14 or 15th century, with Turkish civilization, she came to Balkan. Rakija then meant a drink arak that was produced in Indonesia, Malaysia and other Far East countries. She was generated with distillation of boiled juice or wine of special palm trees.
In 4th century BC, Aristotle wrote that wine, see salt and other liquids should be transferred into drinking water but only if they will go under distillation process. Aldo, this conclusion wasn’t used long after, up until 8th century of this era. Since then, the knowledge of distillation process spread quickly all over the Europe. In many countries started the production of distillated alcoholic beverages that were called “The Water of life”. Discover of the true origin of specific alcoholic beverage it’s not at all easy since the recopies have become a part of national pride. Production of “national beverges” begins in 15th century in European countries : gin in England, schnapps in Germany, akvavit on Scandinavia, vodka in Russia and Poland, and RAKIJA on Balkan. At the beginning, she was used in medical and therapeutic purposes, but also for setting up a good mood.
What is rakija (schnapps)
Harsh alcoholic beverage which if you “overuse”, your blood will boil, and creates false image of perfection and strength in a mans conscious.
Rakija is produced in other parts of Europe too, especially in Germany, but under a name “schnapps”. Maybe the best translation of Rakija on English would be brandy, but that is not accurate eather. Brandy is produced from grapes, and that is just only one kind of rakija. So, further in text we will use international word “schnapps” for rakija.
Not one celebration on Balkan (especially on continental part) can’t be imagined without this alcoholic beverage. It’s always present on table, in taverns, on every celebration and similar occasions. Also serves as a medicine.
Rakija is produced in other parts of Europe too, especially in Germany, but under a name “schnapps”. Maybe the best translation of Rakija on English would be brandy.
Drinkable schnapps must slight through the through, and not to “scratch”, and to make you fell worm in a belly and leave a taste of fruit in your mouth.
When you pour schnapps, leave it in a glass for 2-3 minutes before you drink it. On that way aroma and scent will be more expressed.
If schnapps stays in the bottle long before you pour it, shake it to even the strength of it, because while standing, ethyl alcohol is lifts up in a fluid.
The origin of the name
The name rakija (schnapps) is the term that refers to fruit brand popular in Central and Southeastern Europe. The name of this product is quite similar in different countries. In Bulgaria it’s ракия, in Serbia Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina it is known as rakija, in Albania-rakia, in Romania-rachiu.
Production of schnapps
Schnapps on Balkan is produces with single or double distillation which is obtained with alcoholic fermentation of fruit, rye and similar. After the first distillation “soft” schnapps is obtained with smaller percent of alcohol. Then after the distillation of “soft” schnapps “overbaked” schnapps is obtained. From soft schnapps is often made “Schumadian heaven”. Sometimes the sugar is added to increase the quantity of obtained distillate but also leads to lowered quality of produced rakija. Not one producer that stands behind his product uses sugar.
Different types of schnapps
In Serbia, people adore schnapps. This is the main reason schnapps here is made of many different types of fruit. There are two basic types of schnapps: prepechenica (overdone) and ljuta (peppery). After the first distillation the so called “meka” (soft) schnapps is gained. This is the schnapps with the lower percentage of alcohol. After one more distillation of soft schnapps you get “prepechenica”. The biggest difference between these two is in strength. Prepechenica is stronger.
Rakija is a hard alcoholic beverage (least 32% ABV (64 proof). As already mentioned, there are many different types of schnapps since it’s possible to make it from almost all types of fruit. But there are ones that are more popular than the others.
Schnapps in the United States is often used to describe a category of fruit-flavored liqueurs.
Sljivovica is schnapps made of plums. This is one of the most favorite schnapps. Like every other schnapps it is gained after fermentation of husk and then its distillation. The name of this schnapps comes from a word sljiva which means plum. Many countries produce this schnapps such as Serbia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland, Bosnia and Herzegovina and to a lesser extent Austria, Germany, Italy and other neighbor countries.
Plum schnapps is a National drink extremely popular on Balkan. Somewhere around seventy percent of yield of plums is used for production of this beverage. This schnapps is often kept in wooden barrels. This way, the schnapps gets golden-brown color and better taste. Unlike wine, it doesn’t need some special supervision and it gets better over time.
By adding different types of medical herbs and other fruitages special types of schnapps are gained such as bitters and others.
Kleka is a conifer plant similar to blueberry. This schnapps is gained after adding fifteen to twenty ripened fruit of kleka into one liter of plum schnapps. You should be careful not to add more fruit to avoid bitter taste. After this, the schnapps should be put in a glass bottle for forty days.
Apples are fruit that is popular and eaten in this part of the world through the entire year and therefore it’s no surprise that there are many schnapps made of this fruit. This alcoholic beverage has got a wide use especially as a medicine.
This alcoholic beverage is gained by distillation of grape husk. This schnapps is very often used here because of its medical characteristics. It is best known under the name lozovacha or komovica in Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, and under the name zivania in Cyprus.
Peach schnapps is alcoholic beverage made of the ripe peaches. For making any kind of schnapps people mostly use the fruit that is completely ripe, almost rotten (fruit that doesn’t have, because of its condition, any other commercial purpose).
Quince schnapps, cherry schnapps, schnapps made of honey or nuts are just some more types of schnapps produced in this area. Their use is different; quality depends on part of the country where they are produced and type of fruit used for their production but every last one of them has its consumers and fans.
How and when to drink schnapps
Schnapps is a very popular and extremely important beverage for people on the Balkan Peninsula. It is a part of every celebration (birthdays, weddings, baptizing, slavas and others), a part of sad situations and everyday life. Whichever part of the country you visit, this, besides coffee is the first thing you’ll try. The type will depend on the region but the custom is the same.
The first thing people her will do to wish you welcome in their home is offer you a cup of coffee and a shot of schnapps.
There are different ways how to drink schnapps. There is a belief that schnapps should be drunk cold from a small glass. But experts claim that this is a custom preserved from the older periods when schnapps was mostly “soft”, which means not strong enough, with low percentage of alcohol. This is when you should drink it cold and from a small glass.
But if you drink god, quality, strong “overdone” schnapps, you can drink it from a wine or brandy glass and not necessarily chilled. If the schnapps is good you also don’t need to drink it at once, you can enjoy it and drink it slowly.
One more reason why this alcoholic beverage is served in a small glass is that if it’s of lower quality, in a wider glass, it will smell badly.
If you are not sure whether schnapps is good, you should know that quality schnapps smells like the fruit it’s made of, but never stronger than that. If it smells stronger than some sort of flavor is added.
This booze is mostly used as an aperitif, but those which taste stronger can be served with a cup of coffee or some not so sweet cookies.
However you like it, cold or normal, in small or bigger glasses, you will enjoy the joy and importance it carries with itself. If nothing, whenever you are served this fruit brandy in someone’s home in this part of the world, you’ll know you are a very welcome and dear guest.
There are different customs of how and when to drink schnapps. For example, in Bulgaria it is very often served with yoghurt or shopska salad, or pickled vegetables. It is popular to drink it with other salads that precede the main meal.
Cooked schnapps is also extremely popular, especially in winter. It is custom to use weaker schnapps for this and if you use stronger it should be mixed with water.
All across the Balkan, schnapps found use in some religions and rituals although wine is the main part of Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.