Rakia is a potent brandy from Bulgaria that is made of distilled, fermented fruit. The drink is most popular throughout the Balkans and Turkey. It is also widely accepted as the national drink of Albania, Turkey, and the south Slavics. Rakia can be made from several different kinds of fruit, including plums, apricots, and grapes. It is also known in some regions as trapa or grappa, the latter being a particularly popular name for the drink in Italy.
There are numerous flavors of Rakia, made from several kinds of fruit. The most common three flavors are slivovica, which is made plums, an apricot variety called kajsijevača, and lozovača, which is made of grapes. Other possible, though less popular, fruits used for the drink include quinces, pears, cherries, mulberries, and apples. Rakia may also be flavored with honey, sour cherries, walnuts or herbs.
The particular recipe used for Rakia depends on the region in which it is produced. Some regions produce the drink with a mixture of different fruits, while others tend to use only a single fruit such as grapes or plums. Though Rakia is available commercially, it is most popular as a home-brewed drink.
The methods for making Rakia have remained essentially unchanged since the brandy was first made in the 14th century. First, the ingredients are combined and boiled in a large cauldron. Then the fumes from the brew are drawn through a copper tube and through a coil. The final result is deposited in a bowl of water at the end of the coil.
Traditionally, Rakia is stored in wooden barrels, as opposed to glass or plastic containers, in order to further improve the taste. A fine Rakia will usually be kept in a barrel for at least four years. Most versions of the brandy are stored for at least two years.
Rakia is typically served cold in a small glass before a meal with appetizers. The brandy is also used as a ceremonial drink during special occasions such as weddings. Those who are new to Rakia are often cautioned to drink carefully, as it is extremely potent and usually surprisingly strong to the uninitiated.
Popular dishes to serve with Rakia include different varieties of salad such as shopska. Other common side dishes include pickled vegetables, sausage, and cheese. It can also be served with appetizer plates similar to Italian antipasto with items such as cheese, hot peppers, and chopped cucumber and tomatoes.