Rakija is what we drink when we toast to closest friends and family.
We asked Ilija Malović, author and editor of the blog Rakija, uglavnom, to share his rakija passion and wisdom with us.
We are two friends from university. Our blog Rakija, uglavnom (Rakija, mostly) was born out of desire to show that rakija is a high-quality, urban and inspiring drink. We were fed up with the perceptions of rakija focused around drunkness, dirt and primitiveness.
Looking at Scottish and French examples, we started writing our impressions of rakija brands. We wanted to create a new way of perceiving this Serbian brand that rakija is.
Now in its sixth year, the blog has a substantial following. We frequently hold workshops and masterclasses at wine and rakija fairs. We founded Belgrade Rakija Club and published the beautiful book titled Rakija. (Great photos make it a perfect coffee table book, note by WB).
What we are trying to do essentially is to build a community passionate about rakija.
Serbia has always been a fruit growing country. Its terrain and climate make fruit grown here healthy, tasty and abundant. The locals have become skillful fruit and wine growers.
Such high quality of fruit made it possible to produce rakija in the first place. Over generations, the manufacturing process was developed, to include copper cauldrons and aging barrels, and an entire rakija drinking culture evolved.
Rakija plays particular roles in national customs and traditional medicine. You can’t completely comprehend Serbian culture and people without rakija.
Rakija is a testimony of Serbian people’s continuity and sensibility.
In Serbia, rakija is made from almost any fruit you can find in an orchard or in woods. The most famous is the queen of them all – the plum rakija.
Rakija is also made from apricot, quince, apple, pear, raspberry, blackberry, sour cherry, peach, grape, mulberry, wild fruit.
Herbal rakijas are made by adding gentian, juniper, mint or other medicinal herbs to the base from apple, grape or plum rakija.
We say that Serbia is Noah’s Ark for the old native fruit varieties. These varieties have been growing here for ages, developing a particular relationship with the terrain, climate and geography. They give the best rakija, those with rich and exciting aromas and tastes.
Choosing five rakijas to taste? Well, not an easy task for me. My approach to rakija is in appreciating diversity and nuances. If I have to choose five, I would include one per each fruit type.
Plum – Cellar Perić, year 2000
Apple – Cellar Plazinić, aged oak barreled
Pear – Rakije Paunović
Quince – Atlić Distillery
Apricot – Cellar Paunić
Food and rakija pairing is a very interesting subject. Traditionally, rakija is always served with food. The food selection varied with geography, gastronomic traditions and social status.
In the past, people ate corn or wheat based eats with rakija. These traditional eats were called proja, popara, cicvara.
Today, we prefer meat with rakija. Strong and aromatic brown rakijas pair with strong food, while clear rakijas pair with lighter food.
Pear rakija is served mildly chilled, at around 14 C. That was the air temperature of wine cellars in the past. Serve it in tasting or grappa glasses. That’s to release aromas and create atmosphere of delight. Pear pairs very well with pasta, prosciutto and hard aged cheese. Same goes for pear rakija which matches great with bacon, hard sheep cheese and cold appetizers.
The key rule is there’s actually no rules, as the long history of rakija proves. Eat what you like and pair it with good rakija!