In case you’re tired of the same old whiskey and cognac yet still want to enjoy something similar but with a different kind of punch, having a rakija drink won’t leave you indifferent. Even though it’s not overly known outside Southeast Europe, you can still find rakija in specialized bars, shops, and restaurants all over the world. And even better – you can make it yourself.
What Is Rakija?
The simplest way to explain rakija is to call it a fruit brandy. It’s a traditional Balkan alcoholic beverage (Southeast Europe) that’s made from fermented fruits, most commonly plums, grapes, and pears, but there are many other fruit options as well like cherries, apricots, apples, and more. One might even call rakija a fruit moonshine; it does contain very high alcohol content – 40% ABV. In countries such as Serbia and Bulgaria, rakija is treated almost as a national treasure, where many people make their own rakija for household use and treating guests.
How to Make Rakija
If you have a classic moonshine still or know where to get one, you too can make rakija on your own. The ingredients you’ll need are:
- About 44 lbs. of the fruit of your choice (plums, grapes, pears)
- Between 170 and 340 oz of water
In order to make great rakija, you’ll need to get raw fruit that’s very ripe or even overripe. However, make sure that no part of the fruit is moldy or spoilt. Once you smash the fruit and get the wash, you can determine the amount of water you’ll need depending on the existing liquid. The “wash” refers to the fruit’s natural juice – don’t actually wash the fruit with water.
Start the process by smashing and crushing your fruit until you get a smooth consistency. You can do this by hand or feet stomping, or you can use a tool. Just make sure not to crush the fruit stones; instead, leave them whole.
Once this bit is done, pour the smashed fruit puree into a wide neck container that you’ll then cover with a cheesecloth and place it somewhere dark. After about 8 to 16 days, it should start fermenting naturally. You’ll know as you should hear the hissing and notice a foam.
After the fruit starts fermenting, place the mixture into a fermentation container and add water to make the mixture more liquid. Make sure that your container has an airlock and keep it somewhere dark at around 64 to 77°F. Leave the container alone for 2 to 6 weeks. Once there’s sediment at the bottom and no sugary taste, this step is done.
Strain your mixture with a cheesecloth to remove the pulp and then pour the remaining liquid into the distillation still. Collect to 25-30% ABV. Add more water until you can collect the previous liquid to 17-20% ABV.
Now it’s time for the second distillation. This is the part where you should collect about 5 oz for every 22 lbs. of raw materials until you get to 40% ABV. Leave the rakija you have now made to sit for about 2 days in a dark place. After that, it will be ready to consume and enjoy.
Keep in mind that rakija is not a drink that you should use to get three sheets to the wind but a beverage to drink with true appreciation and enjoyment with your family and friends. Small shot glasses that hold no more than 1.5 oz are used for drinking rakija. And make sure to get a bite of something hearty with each sip.
Interested in tasting the traditional Balkan rakija and cuisine? Then feel free to pay us a visit at Rakija Grill in Miami and experience the authentic Balkan dining.