The history of Cretan Raki
If you’ve ever been to Crete, you probably have had at least one shot of the spirit called Raki. In other parts of Greece, it’s known as Tsikoudia or Tsipouro. Cretans are eager to send travelers home with their homemade Raki. They put it in clear water bottles so that it can be easily transported.
Raki Comes From Grapes
Raki comes from byproducts created from the wine making process. The name comes from the ancient Greek word rax which means grapes. After the grapes are pressed (traditionally by feet pressing) and the juice is stored so that it can begin fermenting, there’s a lot of leftover plant material, which is stored for around six weeks before it is distilled into Raki.
There is always a big fest during this procedure each autumn. Every raki distiller invites his family and friends and they all eat and drink while waiting for the first drops of Protoraki (the first even stronger raki), usually there are traditional Cretan musicians around the table too. These are the famous Kazania in every Cretan village.
History of Raki
This spirit dates all the way back to Ancient times! Evidence of it has been found in ancient pottery from the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations. It seems that they enjoyed a beverage similar to Raki with their meals and was also made from grapes.
During the Turkish occupation of Greece, particularly on Crete, the Turks began calling the local spirit Raki because it was similar to their own version of this beverage. However, Turkish Raki is flavored with anise while Greek Raki has a clear and clean taste.
Tradition of Hospitality
To the Cretans, it represents hospitality. When visiting a local restaurant, they’ll often bring out a small pot of homemade Raki, made in their own distillery and restaurant owners will join you while you drink! To express their gratitude for your visit, they may send you home with a plastic bottled filled the clear liquid. They goal is for you to share it with friends and family back home so that you can always remember the island.
Raki with Honey – A Recipe
If you don’t like the taste of pure Raki due to its strong flavour, you can always drink Rakomelo, which is traditional Raki mixed with honey (meli). You can make it yourself. All you need to do is mix two cups of raki with three tablespoons honey in a saucepan and gently heat until the honey is melted. You can either serve it hot or chill. Cretans and Greeks mostly drink it during wintertime to avoid sore throats and all sorts of diseases.