Let’s have authentic serbian drink!
As rum was the inspiration for seafaring explorers, as sake inspired dancers of the Three Kingdoms, as bourbon inspired cowboys of the Wild West, rakija (serbian drink) is the inspiration for the many poets and drunkards who wander the Balkans.
I can freely say that rakija is the way of life in most of the Balkans. No gathering is complete without this serbian drink, we’re talking everything from birthdays, to weddings and even funerals. People who have been brought up and raised in this region, grew up with it because all of our grandmas and moms claimed that rakija is not only for drinking, you can also use it as a cure in various ways, most commonly massaging it onto one’s chest when that person has a sore throat or high temperature. If you’ve been traveling around the Balkans for at least a couple of days and you don’t know what rakija is, then I don’t know what kind of hosts you’ve had?! Anyhow, rakija a strong distilled alcoholic beverage made from different kinds of fruit, most famous one being šljivovica (plum rakija). As an old Latin proverb says, Omne trium perfectum (everything that comes in threes is perfect), rakija invigorates the body, heals the soul and strengthens the spirit. It contains the idyll of Serbian orchards, mastery of ancient braziers and the taste of oak (which the barrels are made of).
Good rakija is made of healthy, fully riped and unsprayed fruits, and distilled twice because if done ‘only’ once, might be too ‘soft’. Any household in the Balkan region who has even the smallest orchard in their backyard is making their own rakija. And the process of making it is followed by its own rituals, it’s not uncommon to invite a fair number of neighbors, relatives and friends to share this ‘event’ with, of course including enormous amounts of food, drinks and most commonly folk music repertoire. If the guests didn’t pass out drunk from all that drinking during this rakija making party, it’ll be labeled as unsuccessful. When it’s finally made there are two options, storing it in a glass bottle where you should leave it for 2 months before drinking, or if you are a true hedonist and have the patience, leave it to sit in an oak barrel for several years before drinking it, because those are the tastiest ones.
When visiting somebody in any of the ex-Yugoslav republics, you will most definitely be offered some rakija, refusing to try it could be understood as rude and impolite, so even if you don’t feel like drinking just try it. If you don’t feel like having more leave some of it in the bottom of the glass, otherwise if your glass is empty all of a sudden it might become full again ’cause we just like to make people feel tipsy even if it’s early morning. We also love to talk about rakija, so if you are ready to get yourself into listening to an extensive lecture about it, feel free to ask any local. This God given drink, as most locals consider it, is served in a longnecked glass called čokanj. Though, do not be fooled, just because this glass looks like a shot, don’t make the mistake of shooting it, it is meant to be sipped. Have in mind, no matter how easy drinking and sweet that honey one is, if you shoot it, after just a few of them you might temporarily lose your sense of good judgement. Also if you want to impress a local, try to have a sip of homemade šljivovica (plum rakija) without making the ‘’I’m experiencing rakija induced internal combustion’’ face. Once you try rakija and if by chance you like it, it somehow becomes also your personal tradition, sooner or later you’ll think of any excuse to have it. Did you know that it’s an excellent appetite opener, or that if you drink it when it’s cold it feels like you’re wearing the warmest coat in the universe and that it could probably save you from any bacteria known to mankind if you just bathe in it? And that’s how you get sucked in!
Though, just to be clear, you won’t become an alcoholic, you’ll become a connoisseur of this divine serbian drink liquor. So, ŽIVELI!