Tsikoudia, The Cretan Fire Water
How the Cretan Raki Tsikoudia is made, tasted and celebrated
The Cauldron & Freshly Made Tsikoudia
Typical get-together on a farm in Crete
It is hard to start an article about Cretan Raki (Tsikoudia for locals) as it brings so many nice memories. In just one sentence: Tsikoudia is the spirit drink that stands in direct connection to famous Cretan hospitality. Similar to the famous Greek spirit of Ouzo Tsikoudia has a long history in Crete. Let’s have a look at how it is brought into life on the Island.
Well, I could simply make it easy for myself and say that Raki & Tsikoudia are just another gift of the Greek God Dionysos, with wine being the first one. In our case, however, the mass of the pressed grapes left over after the classic wine-making procedure will be placed in a big special pot, the Cauldron. Drop by drop, the pomace brandy of Tsikoudia will begin to flow from this hand-crafted distillery device; very strong at first, almost pure alcohol, and then properly balanced.
Typical for Cretans, this slow procedure is just another excuse for celebration.
big families with their friends gather in the simple-made Raki fabrics in the villages, bringing their own pomace made brandies, and from late afternoon till late night they wait while their Raki is being processed. During this time they share some plates – spaghetti with local cheese is the traditional food which also helps to digest the alcohol – chat, sing, dance and, of course, try some of the Raki.
Reaching the 38%
Some locals may be very experienced in testing the local delicacy, but the best way to know when to stop (making Raki, not drinking) is the special devicve checking the alcohol percentage of the about-to-be Tsikoudia.
Apparently there is a large number of farmers producing Tsikoudia all over the island of Crete. Until the end of November, several weeks after the annual grape harvest, the massive plastic barrels in the photo will be full with produce.
Measuring the alcohol
There will be a second part of this article with info about the right time and place to enjoy raki.
Until then keep in mind that if you are in Crete in October or November and you get an invitation to take part in a local raki making festival, by all means try not to miss it. But also be aware that over-consuming might make you feel your head feel like the one on the yard fence of a local Raki distillery.
Until next time,