Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Rakia - With Or Without Ice?

Rakia - With Or Without Ice?Rakia, with or without ice? This is a legitimate and serious question for Rakia drinkers and to be quite honest doesn't have a straight forward answer.

Initially, when arriving in Bulgaria and before I started distilling my own, Rakia was always drunk with ice. It was automatically put on the table in some Bulgarian bars and restaurants therefore one felt compelled to add to the Rakia if it was there. The Rakia drunk was normally a standard 100 ml 40% locally factory produced Rakia and the addition of ice just watered it down to around 35% or lower. At the time this wasn't a problem and was still enjoyed at the time. Nowadays I choose not to add ice to factory produced rakia, this took a turn after my experiences with the home distilled Rakia.

Starting my adventure with homemade Rakia, the ice factor comes into play for a very different reason. The alcohol level sometime tips the 50% mark and this at the time I felt was really is too strong so the ice was added. What this also does is provide a medium where you can actually taste and appreciate the finer qualities of the taste of Rakia. This is not to disimiliar to the options of added ice or water to whiskey to enhance and impart the finer flavours of the spirit. There were however occasions where ice wasn't available and to combat the problem of strong Rakia, smaller sips were taken alongside a glass of water, lemonade or Ayran.

Having now seen many Bulgarian Rakia drinkers and their ice or no ice habits, it is still confussing as to which is the most common. In some restaurants you have to ask for ice and in others you don't, this confussed the issue further, there are definely two schools of thought here.

At home, the preferences still are divided, some of my guest take ice, others don't and the same when I am with neighbours. The question is asked, "Ice or no Ice in Rakia?" but the answers are equally divided.

Rakia - With Or Without Ice?I guess it is down to individual preference, but to me to put ice into a Rakia to weaken the strength just doesn't feel right now. My own Rakia in the first year was around 46% and needed to be slightly weaker, therefore ice was always added for this purpose. In more recent times distilling the Rakia is made to around 42%, this was done purposely by adding spring water into bulk Rakia. The neccessity of ice nowadays in my own Rakia is not needed for watering down the spirit.

So far, we have just talked about using ice to reduce the alocohol content, there is another issue for using ice and that is to chill the Rakia.

In the summer the Rakia is normally cooled in the fridge before serving - even stuck in the freezer for an hour before being brough out into the warm evening air of summer. Eventually the Rakia will bring itself up to an ambient temperature and become too warm, this is where the ice may come into play, unless you have lots of friends around and the bottle is emptied within the hour. this of course is not always so.

Rakia - With Or Without Ice?It is noticable that the poorer the family they are less likely to add ice to the Rakia, this may well have everything to do with the fact than they don't have freezers! this leads me to believe that traditionally, Rakia should be served without ice and this is how I now drink it. The Rakia should be served cold and canbe kept cold with a bucket of cold water when not being poured. If other drinkers want ice, that is their preference. The home produced Rakia, the preferable Rakia gives me great pleasure to taste neat as I had produced it to that level of strength for exactly that purpose.

With factory produced Rakia in restaurants and bars, the drink is always served cold and the addition of ice from my point of view will just weaken the Rakia it to the degree of turning it into a bitter spritser. My preference has change over the years.

So, do you prefer ice with your Rakia? Let me know by voting on the new poll I have put out.
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