Rakia: the best and worst thing to come from the Balkans

It burns like cheap vodka, is sweet like rum, and strong like moonshine. On two separate recent occasions I’ve been introduced to the alcoholic beverage rakia.

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Rakia is a fermented fruit-based liquor. Both times I’ve been offered it was by Bulgarians, however a Montenigran told me it’s popular all over the Balkans. Although commercial brands are available, it’s almost always homemade.

Because it’s homemade, rakia can vary a lot. You can use almost any fruit to make it – pears, peaches, plums – and the alcohol content can vary from 45-65%. No, not proof – percent. It tastes exactly like you would imagine.

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One person told me it should be sipped like whiskey, another told me it should be downed in one gulp like a shot. Some people mix it with water to make it more drinkable and less alcohol. The amount of added sugar varies a lot too – less sugar means less hangover, but more sugar means you can stretch one batch further. The ones I tried had very little extra sugar.

One thing people agree on: be careful! Besides the obvious dangers of getting too drunk too quick and alcohol poisoning, rakia can also damage your insides if dranken on an empty stomach. So it’s best drank after eating, and slowly!

Oh, and it can also make you go blind.

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One thought on “Rakia: the best and worst thing to come from the Balkans

  1. From the 6 Balkan countries I’ve been to, Serbians seem to be the most extreme with it. They drink it like the Brits drink their tea.. and always offer it to guests.

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