Montenegro Traditions - the Making of Rakia

Food & Drink Lifestyle

National Montenegrin alcoholic drink made of fruits

In Montenegro, we have a wide range of traditions. We are a nation of tradition. Even if, nowadays, you can buy everything at the stores or supermarkets, there are still so many people in Montenegro who actually grow vegetables and fruits and keep livestock. Montenegrin people, especially elder ones, think that it is very important to know what you eat or drink, but the only quality they accept is a product grown by them or their friends and family, directly from their gardens. 

Every season in Mediterranean has its own nuts and like that, autumn brings beautiful colours and plenty of tasteful vegetables and fruits, from which hardworking housewives are making winter stores. 

But, this is a story about rakia! Actually, about making of our famous, domestic, traditional rakia. Rakia is an alcoholic drink which can be made out of many kinds of fruits - apple, pear, plum, apricot, quince, raspberry etc., the only condition is that those fruits contain sugar, from which, during the alcohol fermentation, appears alcohol. The most famous and the most traditional rakia is the one that is made of grapes. 

Apple Rakia

Montenegro is a great place for growing grapes. We even grow our own autochtonous sort called Vranac from which are made black wine 'Vranac' and rakia called 'Loza', and this appears to be one of the most successful branches of the economy in Montenegro. The state's company 'Plantaze 13.jul' are famous for its products and they even export traditional Montenegrin drinks and wine to many countries in Europe and some worldwide.

Beside the country itself, many households in Montenegro are making their own rakia or wine. They usually have averagely sized vineyards, enough for family consumption and possibly a bit of sale. 

Vranac Wine - typical sort from Montenegro

The whole process isn't much complicated.  When you collect grapes, you crash and clean it and then you put them into plastic barrels for 3 weeks. During that period the grape is going through a fermentation process and it must be manually stirred all the time.

Grapes Cooking for Rakia

After that period, the next step is a process of distillation. In that process, you will need a metal caldron or kettle in which you put grapes and cook it. That kettle is connected to another pot with water by a metal tube (looks like a pipe) from which rakia comes out in drops. The goal of distillation is a separation of the volatile component from the raw material which is distilled, and by the evaporation and condensation, it becomes liquid - comes in shape of rakia. 

Big kettle for cooking grapes

That process takes a bit of time and usually lasts for a few hours. 

The next and final step is a time after cooking when rakija needs to lay down in wooden barrels for some time (about 3 weeks) in order to mature and to get ready for drinking. The final product is a very strong alcoholic drink, that has about 50 degrees of alcohol.  

Distillation Process

Fun fact to know is that old Montenegrin people have a common habit to drink a little glass or two of rakia in the early morning, as soon as they open their eyes, before having coffee or breakfast or anything at all! They all believe it is meant for their good health. And, what is even more curious, many of them indeed live a long life.