Rakija, that hard alcoholic drink is obtained by distillation of fermented fruits, it can be prepared of plums (šljivovica), pears (viljamovka), grapes (lozovača) and apricots (kajsijevača), and then, there are also variations that depend on the householder’s taste. For example, you can season rakija with home grown spice herbs and grasses and enjoy homemade travarica, or add some fruit like sour cherries, figs, honey, or even walnuts for the sweetest homemade orahovača.
Rakija is a simple beverage, rich in alcohol, and it is certainly recommended to be consumed in small doses. Rakija connects and warms, so it is especially attractive during winter days when it can be boiled and mixed with other seasonal drinks.
The classical rakija is transparent and has strong alcoholic odour. Preparation of this beverage requires a large kettle in which fruits are boiled, but the preparation procedure certainly varies given the areas and customs.
It is believed that rakija heals a series of health problems. These beliefs are passed on from one to another generation, so having a bottle of rakija in the household is a real unwritten rule. Actually, rakija cures headache and toothache, eliminates gastric problems, it is perfect for pain in the neck and back, and heals seasonal colds.
In continental Croatia, šljivovica and viljamovka are most often prepared, whereas kajsijevača and lozovača are specific for Istria and Dalmatia. It is interesting to mention that rakija is also readily consumed beyond the borders of the country, so it is one of the most famous Balkan gastronomic products nowadays. Except in Croatia, it is relished in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Serbia, and Macedonia.
Rakija is most often served as the appetiser, as the beverage that stimulates appetite and is perfect introduction to rich meal or dinner. We discovered restaurants where you can taste the best samples.
“In our restaurant, we serve rakija such as biska and medovača, and they are very popular here. We make rakija ourselves, and our guests love it especially as an appetiser,” we were told at the Stari podrum in Buje.
The Sole Tavern in Umag is most proud of homemade grappa, Istrian rakija got from Malvazija and Muškat, which specifically pairs with sweet tastes of dry figs and stimulates the appetite perfectly.
“Homemade grappa is very popular here, we also serve liqueur of Teran, and here is also rakija in which we add herbs with the taste of mint and citronella with addition of honey. We also have rakija of wild almonds, which is also great, as well as spruce rakija, or distillate of spruce berries,” said Marino Soša, Chef at the Sole Tavern in Umag.
That rakija connects is evidenced by the Knez Restaurant in Omiš. Actually, except for Dalmatian rakijas they say they also offer some Slavonijan rakija.
“We have rakijas in our offer, which we provide from different family farms. We have viljamovka, travarica, they are mostly our Dalmatian products, but we also have Slavonijan šljivovica and orahovača. We serve them as appetisers,” we were told at the Knez Restaurant in Omiš.
Except as a cure, rakija is ideal to warm you in the cold winter days, and for toasting to special moments. In whatever part of the country you are, toast with a glass of rakija and let each moment be special.