Everybody who has visited Crete is familiar with ‘raki’, Crete’s local drink offered usually at the end of every meal, accompanied with something sweet.
Let’s learn some interesting facts about this popular Cretan spirit, symbol of hospitality and kindness.
1. How is this spirit made?
Raki is made with byproducts that derive from wine-making process. After the grapes are pressed for wine making, not leaving anything to go to waste, the Cretans use the crushed grapes (also called strafylla). As the strafylla are slowly boiled in special cauldrons, the Cretans patiently wait for the raki to flow drop by drop. The distillation process can take 3 hours or more and is celebrated with family and friends. Tsikoudia is often home-produced in villages throughout Crete, so its alcohol content might vary by producer.
2. So, how it is called really? Raki or Tsikoudia?
In Crete you might hear the name ‘raki’ more often than the name ‘tsikoudia’, however you should know that the European Union officially protects the name Tsikoudia from Crete as a unique spirit, coming from its original place. (PGI – Protected Geographical Indication Crete)
3. How is tsikoudia served?
Tsikoudia is served straight, in shot glasses, most of the times chilled. It can be served as a welcoming drink or as an aperitif, usually paired with something sweet, or fruit of the season. As far as the taste goes, we think that it pairs with any delicacies you might have available!
4. Is Cretan Raki the same as Turkish Raki?
No. Cretan Raki is pure grape distillate while Turkish Raki is processed with aniseed and it resembles to Greek Ouzo (which is partially distilled from grape residuals)
To sum it all up ..
Cretan Raki is so much more than a drink, it is a ritual, a communication between people, making stranger become friends. Locals suggest that the ‘firewater’ (as it is often called) can cure anything from toothache until love crash. Tsikoudia aids for digesting the tasty Cretan meals and it is said that it promotes a long and healthy life!
Have you tried tsikoudia yet? What are your thoughts about it? If you have any tips to share with us, we will be happy to hear!
Stin igia mas! Cheers!
Images Credit T. Bouras