Belgrade, December 2, 2022: the thermometer reads 5°, and the pace is quick in the busy streets of the Serbian capital. Just enough time to rush to number 5 Dobračina Street, from which the first scent of fruit reaches us, Živeli! Cheers !
Welcome to the home of one of the Balkan region’s prides: Rakija. Rakija is the national spirit of the Balkan countries and is made from distilled fermented fruit. The most famous Rakija is distilled from plums: Sljivovica.
Rakija is a family tradition, prepared in the past by monks in Orthodox monasteries, and is drunk in the morning for the more adventurous or, more commonly, at the beginning of a meal with tapas. As far as anyone can remember, the first traces of Rakija date back to the 11th century.
A symbol of the struggle against the Ottoman occupation from the 14th to the 19th century, Rakija was prepared clandestinely by the Balkan peoples. A Bulgarian proverb even claims that “any inhabitant who does not have his rakia would not be ready for war”.
This tradition has not died out and you will still find in many homes in the Balkan region a still used for the preparation of this spirit.
Today, Rakija brings together family and friends, and any foreigner stopping over in one of these countries will find it in every restaurant in the towns.
Its alcohol content is usually between 20% and 40% and can reach 80% when it is produced locally!
In comparison, France banned home distillation without official agreement in 1960, and the EU has also banned the manufacture and sale of alcohol above 45%.
With the integration of the Balkan countries into the European Union still in progress, home distillers have many more years to enjoy with family and friends.