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  • Writer's pictureServus Zagreb

Rakija - a Croatian ''aqua vitae''

One of the most common reasons for traveling to a foreign country is to get to know its sights, its customs, its life and eating habits, and everything we bring into relation to the culture of a nation. For that reason, it is unlikely that we will travel to a country without being informed about what is most often drink. A visit to Croatia is usually spent enjoying local wines, more and more frequent and high-quality craft beers, but also one drink that is deeply woven into the Croatian tradition - rakija.

The idea of making a drink similar to rakija was born in early 4th century BC, when Aristotle wrote that seawater as well as wine and other liquids could be turned into drinking water when subjected to the distillation process. This conclusion, however, was not used long after, until the eighth or ninth century AD, when Arab alchemists devised "alambikes" which they used to obtain the basis of perfume. These instruments were also used in the attempts of the then alchemists to obtain gold from the base metals (iron and lead). The word rakija is of Arabic origin and comes from the word "al-rak" which means ''sweat''.

Rakija is that ace in the sleeve, that secret weapon against all that is enemy to common man. It will destroy bacteria, relieve you of stomach and muscle pain, annihilate any virus and disinfect a wound instantly. In fact, it used to be called «aqua vitae». Other than its evident medicinal use, it goes down extremely well in any possible occasion. Whether you just woke up out of a coma or are about to roller-skate on a freeway – rakija is there to enhance the experience.


Not only does it soothe the taste buds after some delicious prosciutto but it also relishes the aftertaste by putting a huge grin on your face. It’s a natural remedy, a list of medical achievements poured into a shot of a traditional beverage. If you ever come to Croatia, this is the stuff to get a hold of right at the border. However, don’t worry about getting short on this particular alcoholic drink, as it is available in every part of Croatia, this Mediterranean gem of a country. Rakija and Croatians mix quite well. Only when rakija is passed around can you feel the true hospitality of a generous Croatian.

There is a saying among Croatians: ‘if you haven’t tried homemade Rakija, then you just haven’t tried Rakija at all’. It’s not the most expansive tagline ever made but then again – it was probably made at home, under a table, after a bottle of, you guessed it, rakija. This stuff, if not made properly, will most definitely result in a radiant beverage to say the least.

The strength of rakija is determined by the amount of alcohol expressed in volume parts or volume percentages, which are denoted as % vol. The volume percentage is the number of liters of pure ethanol (100% purity) which is contained in 100 l of alcoholic beverage, that is, in the water-alcohol mixture that makes that drink.

There are many varieties of rakija flavours as such as herb (travarica), honey (medica), vine (loza), Williams pear (viljamovka), walnut (orahovica), cherry (višnjevac) etc.


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