Recently my boyfriend went to Czech Republic for a seminar. He brought me one box with different kinds of Czech rakija (palenka) for present, made by famous brand in Czech Republic R. Jelinek from Vizovice. Therefore I got inspired to write a blog post about rakija to all of you who don’t know much about this alcoholic beverage. I still haven’t opened the box to try them, but I do know a lot about rakija because I grew up in Bosnia and there rakija is concerned as a national drink.
In general rakija is the term for fruit brandy that is very common and popular in Central and Southeast Europe. The alcohol content of rakija is normally 40% ABV , but home-produced rakija can be stronger (typically 50% to 80%, even going as high as 90% at times).
Fruit brandies are commonly known as Rakia or Ouzo in Greece (Ρακί, Ρακή or Τσικουδιά/Tsikoudia), Bulgaria (ракия), Croatia (rakija), Bosnia and Herzegovina (ракија/rakija), Albania (rakia), Macedonia (ракија), Serbia (ракија/rakija), Montenegro (ракија/rakija). In Slovenia, it is known as sadjevec or šnops. In Romania, the term palincă is used over rachiu, răchie. In Central Europe, it is known as “palenka” in Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic and palinka in Hungary. But it is almost the same drink that we are talking about.
In Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia it is one of the most popular alcoholic beverages. Even in the Eastern-Ortodox and Roman Catholic churches in the region, rakija has found uses in certain religious and related rituals across the Balkans.
At the end of the Orthodox Christian burial service, at the exit from the cemetery, visitors are offered a piece of bread (pogača) and a glass of rakija. When drinking “for the soul” of the deceased, one spills some rakija on the ground, saying “For the peaceful rest of the soul”, before drinking the rest.
During the celebrations and wedding ceremonies guests sharing a toast for the happiness of the newlyweds and the hosts. In general in the Balkan countries, rakija is offered to guests in one’s home as a welcoming gesture. The wedding guests are invited to a wedding celebration on Sunday before the wedding, with a bottle of rakija they call it ploska or buklija.
Anyway, I believe that you already must have heard of Rakia (or Rakija) at one point in your life, because it is a very popular drink among South Slavs.
If you are interested about the proccess of making rakija you can watch this interesting video made by An Englishman in the Balkans.
Rakija drinking brings several health benefits – of course, if you are not overdoing. Rakija prolongs life span, but in normal quantities because antioxidants helps fight radicals that are the main cause of ageing. My grandmother lived a nice and healthy life until she was almost 90 years old. She was drinking a small glass of rakija every morning. I remember her saying that it was good for the blood circulation. She was also rubbing her legs and arms with rakija all the time for circulation and pain relief.
Rakija reliefs you from stress because it has an effect on your nerve system, so in other words rakija is able to relax you. Again I have to repeat only in the case if you are drinking moderate amounts.
It is also known that rakija reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke. Rakija prevents the formation of cholesterol deposits in your cardiovascular system, and helps you to reduce the amount of cholesterol. And all of this drastically reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Unlike carbonated and even natural juices, rakija is an alcoholic beverage with very few calories, it doesn’t contain any sugar. It will help you to reduce cholesterol in the blood without raising your body weight. Maybe that’s because people from Balkans are so pretty and obesity is a very rare thing.
In the winter time people are used to prepare mulled rakija to warm up from the cold climate. I found on YouTube this video where a young lady is demonstrating how to prepare it, watch if you want to try yourself, it’s easy.
I believe after reading this blog post you are ready to start experiencing the world of rakija if you didn’t experienced yet. It is a strong drink with a good spirit. Just take it easy.
In Bosnia people often say: ”Drink some rakija, and you are going to feel better,” this is a sentence I had heard a lot of times in my life. When I was a kid I was a restless child. I often climbed on the trees and I was running around all the time. Therefore my legs were covered with scratches and wounds, especially my knees. I remember my grandmother purring the rakija on my wounds for disinfection. She even put the rakija in her home-made syrup for the cough that she made with honey, rakija and garlic for us when we were sick. And yes it did make us feel better. When we had fever she was soaking our socks into the rakija to make them wet in order to lower our body temperature and to bring the high temperature far from our heads to the limbs. So yes it is absolutely truth, rakija can really make you feel better, I am the living example that all this traditional healing methods of my grandmother really work.
One is certain, while drinking it people laugh, cry, rejoice, mourn, eat and sometimes they even begin their day, as my grandmother did it and as many people in Bosnia still do for centuries.