Wednesday, 31 December 2008

A Brandy (Rakia) Article - Brandy Around the World

There was an interested article about Brandy generally and although not mentioning Rakia in particular, it gives a good insight into Brandy that is produced from different parts of the world. After all, Rakia is techinically a brandy made in the same way. but subjected to local techinques and different base ingredients.

Brandy is a spirit made by distilling grapes to a higher proof than they achieve as wine. Most brandy is made from actual grape wine, though some may also be made from the pulpy mixture of stems and seeds left after grapes are pressed, and some is made from the fermented juices of fruits other than grapes. The name brandy is a shortening of the Dutch word brandewijn, which means ôfire wineö.

A Brandy (Rakia) Article - Brandy Around the WorldBrandy has been an extremely popular drink for hundreds of years and is most often enjoyed as an after-dinner drink. It is often suggested that brandy should be warmed slightly, using a candle or small flame, before drinking it. This causes the vapors to become much stronger and the alcohol to become more liquid, an effect many people enjoy. This method, however, tends to overpower many of the subtle tastes and textures of brandy, and so many connoisseurs recommend treating brandy like any other wine and drinking it at room temperature or slightly cooler.

Brandy is grown throughout the world, since it is an obvious extension of the wine industry and wine grapes are such a massive crop. Some regions produce brandy named specifically for their small growing region, such as Metaxa in Greece and Cognac in France.

The brandy produced in the Cognac region of France is by far the most well-known and admired brandy in the world. There are strict requirements dictating its production û at least 90% of the grapes used must be of the Colombard, Ugni Blanc, or Folle Blance varieties, and it must be distilled in a traditional method using copper pots. Famous Cognac brandy varieties include Hennessy, RTmy Martin, and Courvoisier.

Armagnac brandy, though perhaps not as well-known as its Cognac cousin, is another French variety that is usually treated in its own class. It is produced in the Armagnac region of southern France and has similarly strict rules governing its production. Famous Armagnac brandy varieties include Delord, Laubade, and Baron de Sigognac.

American brandy has become more respected and popular in recent years, with the vast majority coming from the state of California û unsurprising, given the thriving wine industry in California. American brandy varieties also have a set of rules governing their production, though they are not quite as strict as the French procedures.

Some brandy, most notably the Italian variety known as grappa, is made using the seeds, stem, and residue pulp left over from pressing grapes into juice for wine. This mash is then fermented, and the remaining pomace is turned into brandy, which is usually referred to simply as pomace brandy.

Brandy may also be made using fruits other than grapes, such as cherry, apricot, plums, and apples. These fruit brandies usually bear a strong flavor of the fruit they represent and are often strengthened using fruit extracts or sweetening syrups. Popular fruit brandies include the cherry-flavored Kirsch from Germany, the apple-flavored Calvados from France, and the plum-flavored Mirabelle from France.
Article source from

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Monday, 29 December 2008

Peshterska Grape Rakia - Trakia Valley

Another online wine merchant with Peshterska Rakia selling alongside other wine and spirits. This particular Rakia is probably one of the best selling Rakias coming from the Trakia Valley,

Peshterska Rakia has had big media coverage in the media and especially on television this Christmas in Bulgaria. A popular everyday drinking Rakia and incidently one of the cheapest to buy.

Peshterska Grape Rakia - Trakia ValleyPeshterska Grape Brandy 750ml
Trakia Valley, Bulgaria

Product Notes:

Golden salmon color. Vanilla and toasted nut aromas. nice oily texture. Dryish, vanilla bean oily nut flavors. Finishes with a lightly sweet powdered sugar and pepper fade. A nice texture and finish but could use more on the mid-palate

International Review of Spirits Award: Silver Medal

About the Estate:
PESHTERA WINERY is also an acknowledged producer of a range of rakias (grape brandies) that are obtained from selected sorts -- Misket and Muskat grapes -- through a traditional Bulgarian technology. Among the most popular brands in Bulgaria are Peshterska Muscat Rakia, Peshterska Selection Rakia, Peshterska Special Rakia, Peshterska Matured Rakia and Peshterska Grape Rakia.
Our Price: $19.99

clipped from

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Where Can I Find Rakia in New York?

There was a Rakia topic on a forum back in 2003. The title of the topic and article was:

Where to find Rakia?, Banitza and a moral

Where Can I Find Rakia in New York?There are supposedly places in New York where one can find Rakia, an amazing Bulgarian spirit that is similar to grappa (but much better!). I have been hunting this stuff all over NY...unsuccessfully. A waitress at Mehanata, the only Bulgarian restaurant in NY, tipped me off to a Bulgarian deli in Queens called Black Sea Delicatessen (39-39 47th Avenue, "open seven days 8am-10pm" according to their card). I called and confirmed that they have rakia and were open before trekking out there. The lady assured me that they are open until 10 and have 3 varieties, but when I arrived they were closed! (And I looked around for the Candid Camera truck and people laughing before giving in). Did this 3 or 4 times before giving up. Once, I was in the neighborhood for Romanian food and just dropped by but it was closed. When I called the next day, the lady told me that they are always open but that day they were closed. I have tried contacting distributors in CA and producers in Bulgaria but have come up dry (literally!). Does anyone here have any other leads or interest in rakia? Thanks in advance. Roger PS. On one trip, however, the Romanian-Armenian deli next door informed me that Black Sea Delicatessen was out of business. Perhaps worried by my forlorn gaze, they notifed me that they had just pulled a wonderful, fresh banitza out of the oven. Def worth a return trip. And from this I have extracted the following moral : when chowhounding (or boozehounding), if you can't satisfy one urge, chances are some other delight is to be discovered nearby.

The replies to this article were:

What is Banitza? I don't know where you can find it, but I can suggest you try looking for palinka (hungarian - transilvanian specialty). It's even better than rakia.
Palinka is great too but where would I find it? I have only had it once in NY, straight out of the suitcase of a Romanian friend. I'm guessing it's going to be even harder to find. Banitza (also Banitsa) is a fillo pastry with egg and cheese filling, sometimes also filled with spinach. Plenty of recipes if you search in google, or just go and get a great one in Queens.
Palinka is only sold in one store in Manhattan, as far as I know. Crown Wines and Liquors 1587 Second Ave. at 82st. They have apricot palinka $20 for 1L and 750g for the same price made of cherry, apple, or peach. I am replying to your question because it is my favorite liquor and it would be good for more people to know about it.


Monday, 22 December 2008

Tetevenska Slivova (Plum) Rakia

I have found a review for this Rakia and have translated it from Bulgarian to English - not too good, but you will get the picture.
Tetevenska Slivova matures. He is 3 years, characterized by slightly lighter in colour and a little more tang. And it'm quite embezzle, I have no complaints. To drink chilled, but not much, because spices are lost. The right choice for anyone who would fight snobarskoto respect to slivovitsata and even to the spirits as a drink.
Price: Tetevenska matures - 8.90 - 9.20 euro

Note: Some institutions do not support these spirits Unknown why. Others have them, but you've finished the first bottle, it appears that no second.

Another description has been found and given here:
Tetevenska matured and Trojan Plum Brandy

Produced in specialized workshops in Teteven and Trojan. Use only healthy, well-ripened fruits of different varieties of plums grown in these areas. Processing of fruits, fermented fruit pulp and destilatsiyata are for the old Trojan plum brandy. The resulting plum distillate is diluted with softened water to alcohol content 42-43% vol., otsvetyava to drive to Mel ¬ svetloslamenozhalt color filter back and spillage in transport casks for aging that is still 3 years. Then draw up a trial Blend, which is tasting and approved on the basis of him being drawn up production Blend, which after processing as required by the test is filtered and bottled. The alcohol content is 40% vol.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Bulgarian Apricot Rakia - Kaysieva Rakia

Bulgarian Apricot Rakia - Kaysieva RakiaQuite often you will see Rakia being sold in bazaars and markets up and down the country. All home produced they are made from various fruits, grape, plum, apple cherry and today I saw some apricot based Rakia (Кайсиева ракия) begin sold alongside a grape and plum based Rakia.

I found an article describing how the commercial Apricot Rakia is processed, not brilliant English bit gives you the basics:

Made by well ripened fruit of apricots. Processed fruits, alcoholic fermentation and distillation are listed under "General". Apricot brandy alcohol content is 36% vol..
In retail store meets apricot spirits as the Silistra apricot spirits. It is produced in the region of Silistra by well ripened apricot fruit to be processed immediately upon receipt in the enterprise.

Processing of fruits, fermented fruit pulp and distillation is carried out as usual in apricot spirits. Prior in slop containers for storing standardized distillate (brandy) is otsvetyava with caramel color to light. Aging in barrels bearing or transport a minimum of one year and then bottled. Alcohol degree Silistrenska of apricot spirits is 37% vol.
Extract from "Production of household spirits, liqueurs and fruit wines" by D. Tsakov

Friday, 19 December 2008

How Do You Make Bulgarian Rakia? - Question Answered

A question was asked on Yahoo! - Answers back in 2007. There were a few answers and the following was voted as the best. I have also quoted another answer to this question as it gave a quite interesting account as well.

Best Answer was written by Yahoo! Answer member InLoveandWar

The traditional Rakia is acquired by the distillation of fruits or wines in a special metal pot. It is heated by setting up a small fire underneath the pot. The first thing that will come out of the pot is a substance rich with methyl achohol, you should throw it away as it’s poisonous. You should get 1/2 litre of this substance when boiling 100 litres of fruits or wines.

Rakia ( cyr. Ракия ) is considered to be the national drink in Bulgaria and all the other Slavic Balkan nations. It has a very high alchohol content and is made by distillation of fermented fruits like plums, grapes, apples, quinces and other. Most people in rural areas make Rakia at home, therefore it’s alchohol content can reach 60% or more. It’s usually consumed with shopska salada, pickles, turshia. The Rakia is often compared to brandy and vodka. I’ll add a recipe how to make different types of Rakia at home later on.

The traditional Rakia is acquired by the distillation of fruits or wines in a special metal pot. It is heated by setting up a small fire underneath the pot. The first thing that will come out of the pot is a substance rich with methyl achohol, you should throw it away as it’s poisonous. You should get 1/2 litre of this substance when boiling 100 litres of fruits or wines.

The main ingriedients for the Rakia should have a fine taste, not too sweet, sour or bitter. The bitter taste means that it more than 5 months old. The fire underneath the bot shouldn’t be very big, otherwise you’ll burn the whole mixture.


Another interesting answer by Yahoo! Answer member alicias7768

To make rakia you will need a still. Obviously the ideal would be a copper pot still, but if you want to go cheap, get an electric pressure cooker (do not use a stove top model, as there is a significant fire/explosion risk). Where the valve is, you will need to hook up some surgical tubing. The tubing then connects to a coiled copper tube in a bucket filled with ice water. The copper coil pokes through a hole in the side, where a glass catches the distilate.

Generally you will want to throw out the heads, the first part of the output (first quarter inch or so), because if the wine you used wasn't fermented properly (rare, but can happen), you can get toxic methanol in your brew. The tails (when too much water gets in, also gets thrown out, as it tastes less than ideal). Many distillers put the heads and tails into the next batch.

Of course, in America, you are not to even attempt to make your own rakia or grappa, as it is illegal, unless you have a bonded, licensed distillery. Of course, I do not write this from experience, but only from theoretical conjecture. If you happen to live in a place where this is legal, you should probably find a more experienced person to set up your still and to help you with the first few batches.

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Monday, 15 December 2008

Serbian Rakia - Recommended Reading

There are quite few countries in the Balkan Peninsular that have Rakia or Rakia style making, one from Serbia was found today. It takes you through the process with a bit of history and trivia attached. the photographs are also very good and support the text very well.

Taken from:
I recommend you visit this site to see the full account.


Šljivovica, plum rakija from Serbia is a world famous alcoholic beverage. Mostly homemade, it exceeds any other spirit.

Serbian Rakia - Recommended ReadingSerbian people have many uses of rakija. It has an important role in everyday and ritual life. There is no slava, wedding or funeral without rakija. Although the consequences of alcoholism are very well known, Serbian people has always considered rakija more useful than harmful. There is a saying "Rakija is medicine". Many elders drink it every morning on empty stomach because it opens the appetite. In traditional medicine it was used as the basic disinfectant.

History of rakija is blurry. Slavs came to Balkans in VII century and their affinity to Medovača, spirit made of honey, was documented in V century. We should certainly not ignore the fact that various fruit spirits were made and that they could have "evolved" into rakija. Speaking in the favor of the assumption that rakija was made in Serbia even before XV century is the fact that there is a paragraph about alcohol misuse in Dušan's Code (XIV century), one of the most significant Medieval law documents:

"Drunk goes form somewhere and if provokes or cuts one, or bleeds one, and doesn't kill, to that drunk shall an eye been taken out and a hand cut off. If drunk yells, or takes one's hat off, or embarrass in some other way, and doesn't bleed, that drunk shall be beaten, a hundred times with a stick, then thrown into a dungeon, and then taken out of the dungeon, beaten again, and than let go."
Paragraph 166 - About drunks

Sunday, 14 December 2008

A Typical Rakia House - Some Pictures

These pictures were found of a Bulgarian distilling house and is typical of the thousands that are scattered all overBulgarian towns and villages. These particular pictures are courtesy of taken in 2006.

Notice the white Trabant parked there. If it isn't a Trabant it would be a Lada.

This particular Rakia House has four still. There ae four chimneys!

The Bulgarian blue is typical village dress colour as well as the hand knitted bobble hat

A fine example of one of the many different kinds of still that is used, mainly made of brass unlike the industrial commercial stainless steel.

The concret base will last for centuries acting as a good insulation for the fire inside

Another typical sight seen, the little plastic buckets and smaller cups for measuring the alcohol content. Can you see the 'secret' herb ingredient in the jar in the background.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Sungurlarska Rakia - From Vinex Slayantsi

Sungurlarska Rakia - From Vinex SlayantsiThis Raki ais produced by the Vinex Sungurlara Estate producing three grades of Rakia.

Grape Rakia Sungurlare Special,
Grape Rakia Sungurlare Muscat
Grape Rakia Sungurlare

You can find more about the producers of thius fine Rakia at Rakia-producers-vinex-slavyantsi

I found a Rakia Drink Menu and Price list from Restaurant Moskva A Russian Restaurant in Sofia.
  • Royal Amber 50ml 21.99 lv.
  • Rakia from Khan Krum 13 y.o. 50ml 6.59 lv.
  • Burgas 63 Perlova 50ml 6.59 lv.
  • Burgas 63 Barel 50ml 4.99 lv.
  • Burgaska Muskatova 50ml 3.99 lv.
  • Slivenska Perla 12 y.o. 50ml 7.59 lv.
  • Slivenska Perla 50ml 3.99 lv.
  • Tetevenska Slivova Special 10 y.o. 50ml 6.59 lv.
  • Troianska Special Reserve 25 y.o. 50ml 7.59 lv.
  • Peshterska Muskatova 50ml 3.99 lv.
  • Sungurlarska Special 50ml 3.99 lv.
  • Muzhka rakia 50ml 3.99 lv.
Sungurlarska is priced at the lower end of the selection given here.

At Don Vito a catering company, again based in Sofia they sell this Rakia by the bottle for 13 BG Lev (500 ml.)

The Bottle Rakia Price List is given here:
  • Yambolska bottle 500ml. 13.00lv.
  • Sungurlarska bottle 500ml. 13.00lv.
  • Peshterska bottle 500ml. 13.00lv.
  • Karnobatska bottle 500ml. 13.00lv.
  • Dyadova usukanitsa bottle 500ml. 13.00lv.
  • Slivova mellowed bottle 500ml. 13.00lv.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Suhindolska Rakia

Suhindolska Rakia
This is the first post of a series that show commerical brand Rakias in their own unique style of bottle foudn in supermarkets and shops in Bulgaria.

A weird bottle shape indeed. This Suhidoska Rakia certainly has a bottle of novelty and of course this alone is a good selling feature.

I have seen it being served in the "Banski Aiduti" tavern based in Bansko
The menu shows this

"Suhindolska special – 50 ml – 6.00 BGN"

Pretty expensive and for only 50 ml as well, but it is a restaurant based in a skiing resort.

There was also mention in a forum, naely about the shape of the bottle. Quoted as follows:
besarabe, Nikica ... this is my special bottle from "Suhindolska otlezala grozdova " ...

when you look at the bottle from one angle it looks just straight ... after you drink 2-3 glasses and spin the bottle at let's say 90 degrees it appears to be the way it looks above


From Anonymous

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Commercial Supermarket Rakia

Homemade Bulgarian Rakia to one side for a moment.... let's look at some commercial Rakia products.

Surveying the shops in the Yambol region Bulgaria, which is local to many big producers, the range of Rakia for sale is incredible. There must be over 100 different Rakia products in the few supermarkets I visit, many of them only sell the popular and local brands. If I was to visit other regions of Bulgaria and visit their shops for other Rakia brands, this different varieties of Rakia seen would take another giant leap in numbers.

What is even more fascinating is that the Rakia products probably have the most unusual and decorative bottles of all the spirits that are for sale. Each producer of Rakia other than the label has a unique design of bottle. Not only that, some change the design of the bottle every so often so effectively you get a limited edition of bottle never to be seen again in many cases.

Much as I hate shopping, there is much time spent surveying the bottles of Rakia in shops and on occasion a few pictures are taken of the these fancy and decorative bottles. One supermarket once took offence and kicked me out of the shop for doing so, but not before a few good pictures of the range of bottle designed for Rakia.

Getting information and background to different makes of Rakia is difficult. There isn't that much information about on the Internet and certainly limited information such as the name, alcohol percentage, producer and maybe a little on the age printed on the label of the bottles.

My quest now is to try and gather more information about lesser known brands of Rakia and some help would be a useful from visitors to this site. Any offers?

In the meantime I will be publishing a few of my finds in picture form with a little information taken from the label. If anyone know of additional facts about the brands published please let me know.


Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Nice Cretian Website Link on Raki Tsikoudia Found

I just came across a lovely website based in Crete. It gives give a fine detailed description, history and fine information all about Cretian Raki or Tsikoudia. There are some very interesting pictures that accompany the fine writing. I enjoyed the read immensely and wholeheartedly recommend you visit.

Here are a couple of paragraphs from the start of the site page to get you going:

Every autumn after grape harvest, various wine festivities begin throughout Greece. A few days later, in Thessaly, Epirus, Macedonia and on the island of Crete the "Celebration of Tsipouro" takes place.

Tsipouro is a strong distilled spirit containing approximately 37 per cent alcohol per volume and is produced from the must-residue of the wine-press. The name tsipouro is used throughout the country, except for Crete, where the same spirit with a stronger aroma is known as tsikoudia. Also the Oriental name raki is used, from which the term "rakizio" is derived, used to refer to the drink's distillation process, which usually turns into a huge celebration among family, friends and neighbours.

Turkish raki, its traditional drink, is not the same drink as the Cretan one. In Turkey raki was first produced from the residue of grapes left over from wine making only. When a shortage of residue started, spirits from abroad were imported and processed with aniseed.

If you want to read just click on this link:

Natrave Crete!

Monday, 8 December 2008

Results of the Recent Poll - Which Country makes the Best Rakia?

The results of the recent survey have now been assessed. The question that was put was:

Which country makes the best Rakia/Raki/Grappa etc.?

The countries that were placed for voting were:

  • Croatia - 2 votes
  • Greece - No votes
  • Turkey - 1 vote
  • Bulgaria - 14 votes
  • Peru/Chile - No votes
  • Italy - 2 votes
  • Macedonia - No vote
  • Hungary - No vote
  • Others - 6 votes
  • Total Votes Cast 25

There was no shock result here as Bulgaria took top place with 14 votes, over half. There were no votes made for Hungary, Macedonia, Peru/Chile or Greece. As Greece and Macedonia are both direct neighbours to Bulgaria the zero vote surprised me.

Italy and Croatia both took two votes each and 'Others' gained 6 votes.

Seeing as this was a Bulgarian based site did give a bias on voting as most guests viewing this have an interest in Bulgaria and its national spirit. We do however get many American and Canadian visitors, who probably voted for most if not all the ’other’ option.

Does this make Bulgaria the country that makes the best RakiaRaki/Grappa etc.? To those in Bulgaria probably the answer is yes. To others outside Bulgaria and in other Rakia/Raki/Grappa etc. or equivalent countries, no.

A big thanks to all who voted

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Burnt Wood + Rakia = Moonshine Whiskey

Rakia drinking an talking about rakia is a favourite pastime in the dark December evenings in the Bulgaria kitchen, after all that is the only room that is heated in the winter months. Visits from family and friends are frequent, this also saves on fuel. So it was a heat saving visit one evening with a friend whose previous open invitation to visit one evening and try his rakia was finally taken up

It was with interest that I had a detailed discussion with this friend who is well up on homemade rakia processing. He even has his own system for distilling in his outbuilding in Yambol which he offered me to use for next year's rakia. I'd be a fool (or a non-Bulgarian) not to take it up and save 15 Bulgarian Lev in the process.

He has lot of experience in his youthful 40 years on this Bulgarian soil. He shares so me of these with me and also tells me just to tease that he has many rakia secrets that he holds back from telling me. 'Edin Den' (which means one day) was repeated to me every so often. Perhaps I have not been here long enough yet to qualify for these secrets.

However he did give a lot away and one interesting tip stuck in my mind. He had told me that when he was working in America he picked up a few tips from Americans who illegally made moonshine, with this hobby in his blood he naturally got in on the act as well. When they process moonshine in America some use a method of colouring the spirit which he now uses in Bulgaria for his rakia. This is what he told me:
After you run off the rakia that has been freshly distilled, it is just like water, crystal clear. You can colour this clear rakia by taking a piece of dried fruit wood, it can be apple, pear, apricot or even sliva (plum) wood. You then burn the wood over a flame till it is blackened all over put it in the rakia for a few days. The rakia will turn amber in fact the same colour as whisky and it will also give the rakia little smokey taste.
I tried some of his rakia that was given that had bee through this method, it was darker than the normal homemade rakia you see but the big difference was the aroma and taste. There was a smokey hint to both the smell and taste. This was very different to all the rakias I have tried to date, in fact it was not unlike whiskey. To me this was a new slant on a rakia that wasn't. Would I try this next year? Well I might just take a few litres and give it a go, maybe whisky lovers might take to it. But to me rakia, the traditional homemade Bulgarian rakia that is, tops whiskey any day.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Homemade Rakia and Useful Tips for Guests

There was a nice diary article found from an American living in Bulgaria, which goes back to the year 2000. A few useful tips to vistors to Bulgaria along the way as well if you want to read the whole article.

I still find the language exciting and fun to learn. At this na gosti (a visit) the husband talked our ears off and we were able to taste some homemade rakia, wine and whiskey. It Bulgaria you must always have a something in your glass. I think I have learned this skill of keeping just the right amount in the glass, so I will not receive more, but I am afraid Josh still has not caught on!

Here are some things that I have learned so far in Bulgaria and that I hope to carry home with me to the States. Never go empty handed when you visit someone. Many Bulgarians bring sweets, flowers or a drink to share. I love this; it is so thoughtful and really should be done everywhere. Another thing I hope to carry home is taking your shoes off at the door. We are always offered slippers to wear at any house we go to. I like this because I don’t like to wear shoes very much and also because I think it feels very welcoming.

Original source

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