Rakia and how to properly consume it – Apricot rakia
We continue our series dedicated to rakia and how to properly consume it with apricot rakia and its specifics. We offer you an updated and improved version of our article on apricot rakia.
Apricot rakia, although not among the most popular types of rakia, literally dominates entire small areas of the Balkans. These are, of course, regions where the raw material is available and which have traditions in the production and consumption of this type of rakia. The best example of this is Northeastern Bulgaria and in particular the area around Silistra, where most of the people literally associate the word “rakia” with the aroma and taste of apricot.
Different styles of apricot rakia
In general, it can be said that with regards to apricot rakia, there are several factors that determine its style, with one of them being really decisive and that is the presence or absence of pit in the aroma and taste – in some styles there is no pit taste and aroma at all, and for many people its presence is considered absolutely unacceptable. In other styles, the aroma and taste of the pit have their place in the overall aroma and taste profile of the drink, and according to fans of this style, that provides additional structure and complexity to the rakia. Of course, our team respects both styles, but our general opinion is that the light, but by no means intrusive, hint of the pit in the aroma and taste, contributes to the complexity and finesse of the apricot rakia.
Regardless of which of the styles the respective apricot rakia manufacturer has chosen, the most important thing is that the final product is well balanced and demonstrates high quality and a good level of complexity. It is especially important that the aroma of the pit is not too strong, because it suppresses the senses and greatly minimizes the overall experience.
The quality of the rakia depends on the quality and the sort of the fruit
Choosing the right sort of apricot and their condition at the point of fermentation (fruit ripeness, reaching the optimal balance between sugar and acidity when picking, etc) is a topic whose detailed discussion we would like to leave to fruit growers and distillers. Our experience only shows that choosing the right sort of apricots has a huge impact on the final product. At the same time we have noticed a huge difference in the price between different varieties of apricot. For example, in Bulgaria the price per kilogram of apricot for rakia in recent years is usually about 30 stotinki (15 euro cents). At the same time, our friends in Serbia and Bosnia buy a kilogram of apricot from the right sort and in the condition they need, for about 50 euros cents per kilogram. Unfortunately, in Bulgaria nowadays there is no established practice to select particular sorts of apricot in the production of rakia. What’s worse is that the fruit is not always in good condition when fermented. Care is not always taken when picking / collecting apricot and the unsuitable for fermentation ones are not always cleaned, which is a very bad practice. It should also be borne in mind that apricots are an extremely cyclical fruit and there is not always enough good quality fruit available to allow the production of high quality distillate.
Main facts regarding the production of apricot rakia
Unlike grapes, where in most of the cases wine is fermented and then distilled , in the case of apricot mash is fermented and then distilled. The aim of the fermentation process is to obtain a mash which is suitable for distillation and has a minimum of 5% abv. It is also important that the mash is not too high in alcohol. In any case, the most important thing is not to add sugar or its substitutes in the fermentation process, because the consequences are catastrophic and irreversible, not to mention that there is absolutely no real sense in this process.
There is one main issue when it comes to the distillation of apricot mash – that is the burning of the mash due to its high level of thickness. In fact, this is the main problem in the production of apricot rakia. It is important that during distillation the heat is distributed evenly and gradually. Due to that reason, the preferred distillation vessels are pot stills that use steam as a heat source. It is also extremely important that the distillation vessels are well cleaned for the purpose of hygiene and isolation of unpleasant residual aromas and flavors from previous distillations or distillation cycles.
Maturation of apricot rakia
As far as maturation is concerned, apricot rakia is definitely among the types of rakia that, according to the commonly accepted general rules and traditions, is not matured in oak or other types of wooden vessels. Our team is very excited by the fact that recently there have been impressive examples of apricot rakia with very successful maturation in oak. Experience in general shows that the maturation of apricot rakia is a very specific process and it should definitely not be exaggerated with the maturation period. Some producers also apply a process of maturation in kind of a solera.
Home made apricot rakia
It is a pity that the quality of homemade apricot rakia in northeastern Bulgaria in recent years has generally dropped dramatically. Unfortunately, even its availability lately is not as abundant as it used to be some 15-20 years ago. The main reason for that is most likely the fact that a very large part of the traditional distillers of homemade rakia, who used to make these great rakias are either not among us or they are not able to produce them anymore. There is not really any inheritance of the craft of producing rakia. As a matter of fact, our team with great surprise notices a tendency in the recent years in this region of Bulgaria that the people produce and consume more and more homemade grape based rakia of quite arguable quality. The explanation, of course, is that the grape rakia itself, or to be more specific, the pomace and residual wine based rakia, is much cheaper due to the available grapes, from which wine has already been made, and it is much easier to produce it because it is not necessary to clean the fruit from the pits prior to fermentation, it does not get burnt so much in the pot stills, it does not require such careful selection of the fruit, etc.
Our suggestion for good quality apricot rakia
In the world of rakia today there are three very striking examples. One is the undisputed hit Apricot rakia Hubert 1924, characterized by an exceptional level of complexity and ranked in the top 9 on the planet according to Spirits Selection 2019. This is a phenomenal success that even the manufacturers themselves to this day are not able to fully understand. Eau de vie from the Balkans, which costs 22 euros incl. VAT to receive such an award is something unthinkable, especially given the competition. We are looking forward to your calls to explain to you in a professional way what this rakia really is. The other example is Apricot rakia Zaric Magija. It was also awarded a silver medal by Spirits Selection 2019 and represents a very clean and modern reading of apricot rakia with a strong emphasis on freshness, vanilla and coconut. This is a rakia that is also very suitable for cocktails. An easy one you can prepare at home, for example, is Kajsija Tonik. You just make Gin Tonic, but instead of gin you include Magija Zaric and garnish with basil. If you are a fan of apricot rakia, we invite you to visit the two bars in Sofia, which are most specialized in working with rakia – 5L Speakeasy bar и Bar Sputnik. Going there, be sure to say that you have heard about them from us and ask them for an interesting rakia based cocktail. Very often the colleagues will be happy to surprise you even with something off the menu. The third example is a very remarkable achievement in the world of apricot rakia, namely oak matured apricot rakia Aged apricot rakia Stara Pesma. Rakia with an exceptional level of complexity, pleasant fine oak extraction, very well preserved fruit in taste and aroma.
As for the production of apricot rakia in Bulgaria, our friends in Isperih make real apricot rakia and have an oak mature one – Aged Apricot Special Reserve Isperih. According to our quality requirements they also produce an own brand Apricot rakia за Raketa Rakia Bar in Sofia.
Food pairing for apricot rakia
When thinking about food (meze) suitable for apricot rakia, we should imagine meze that would suit not only the taste of the apricot and possibly the implied pit nuances, but also a meze that suits its specific balance between its level of sweetness and acidity. Following this principle, we recommend the following meze for apricot rakia:
- Everything green (salad, spinach, etc.)
- Light, not too aromatic kinds of cheese
- Fresh salads
- Turkey fillet
In addition to the above mentioned meze, apricot rakia can of course be consumed as an aperitif without any meze. Its specificity is such that its consumption as a digestif would be appropriate in rare cases, and in particular in cases when more neutral food is consumed.
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