Read, Write, Run, Roam

Rakija: Balkan Moonshine


The glass makes it look so refined

If there’s one thing that unites the Balkans, it’s their love of rakija. Rakija is a brandy distilled from fruit, preferably in someone’s basement. Kind of a fruity moonshine, if you will. The traditional Serbian breakfast? Coffee with a shot of rakija. Let’s just say it wasn’t something I was eager to try.

Until recently. Winters are cold in the Balkans. When we arrived in Sarajevo, the ten-minute walk to our restaurant seemed like an eternity. When our waiter offered us rakija, it seemed like a great idea. We tried herb and plum. The verdict? Pretty good. One small glass (sip, don’t shoot) and we were thawing out. Over the next two days in Sarajevo, we sampled a few other flavors.  Muz and I thought the best flavor was honey. Prvi thought the plum was a better “daytime warmup sippin’ drink.”

The next morning, Muz and Prvi decided to tackle another regional drink: Bosnian coffee.

It makes a Starbucks venti seem like warm milk

Bosnian coffee is similar to Turkish and Serbian coffee, but packs a bigger punch. While I sipped tea, I watched Muz and Privi gulp their cups of coffee. Their eyes grew wide. Muz grabbed the guidebook and started making intricate plans. Prvi challenged Muz to a running contest. The two of them were bounding up stairs and talking a mile a minute. I suddenly realized why rakija was part of a traditional Serbian breakfast-it was probably a housewife trick to get a Muz to calm down. I liked the rakija, but unless I want to run a four minute mile, I’ll stick to tea in Bosnia.

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2 responses

  1. Great blog! 🙂 Stumbled upon it from a “Google Update” due to the reference to Sarajevo. Explored your blog a bit – great entries and photos, which bring back many memories. I spent a year in Sarajevo in 1997 and traveled to Belgrade and Zagreb many times during that year.

    In Sarajevo, while making my short walk to work, an 80+ year old neighbor would be outside making rakija with his moonshine machine in his front yard. He would call to me and immediately pour a glass for me. . . one was not allowed to say ‘No!”

    Here’s a photo:
    the smell of rakija in the morning

    December 17, 2010 at 3:50 am

  2. Great photos! They make me look forward to seeing Bosnia this spring/summer.

    December 22, 2010 at 4:08 pm

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