Skip to Content

Serbian Rakija: A Strong Drink With Good Spirit

A Stiff Drink With A Good Soul – Serbian Rakija

In the heart of the former Yugoslavia lies an old tradition still quite unknown to the rest of the world: rakija (pronounced RA KEE YA). Rakija is the Serbo-Croatian name given to an alcoholic drink made from the distillation of fermented fruit but is also spelled Rakia.

It is a clear-as-water kind of drink, with a percentage of alcohol that can range from approximately 40% to 65%. You might think that rakija is similar to brandy or schnapps and that there’s nothing new here. But in fact, there lies an entire world to be discovered, as Rakija has its own tradition, its own rituals, and particularities.

What is Rakija made from?

Bottle and glass with ambre colored rakija on a balcony reeling with buildings in the background

Rakija can be made out of almost any fruit, and each fruit has its own specific Rakija name.

Slivovica (Plum Rakija)

Slivovica (plum rakija) is the most popular, as well as the cheapest and strongest. You can find Slivovica in every Slavic country, from the Czech Republic to Bulgaria, and each country claims the drink as its own.

For Serbians, Rakija means much more than just Slivovica, and if you know the right places, you can find yourself enjoying the pleasures of the most diverse kinds of rakija: apricot, peach, grape, fig, quince and even juniper. Each version has its own subtle and particular taste lying just beneath the initial strong flavor.

Rakija Tasting and Festivals

Understanding rakija is a process that involves identifying and enjoying the different types of Rakija, but also following the tradition of respect that comes with this ritual.

Serbians take much pride in producing Rakija in the home. Making your own cheese, jam or wine is nothing strange in Serbia, and making rakija is no exception. Every Serbian either makes their own Rakija, has a cousin who makes it, or just knows somebody who makes it.

Click here to search hotels in Serbia

Try to visit a local festival (you will find rakija producers at any wine festival) or at the Rakija Fest that takes place every September in Belgrade. This is a young festival that is bound to become a big event in a few years.

Rakija Home Distillery with a copper kettle and pipe to a wooden barrel

Homemade Rakija

If you actually want to get a taste of the real thing, you must know this: get in contact with the locals. They will show you the places where you can get good Rakija, or, most likely, will share their own stock with you (commercial Rakija is sold in supermarkets, but try to avoid this kind as it contains preservatives.) 

Serbian Hospitality

Serbians are very open and generous people with a great sense of hospitality. They will open the door of their homes to you and treat you as a guest, offering you food and making you feel comfortable as if you are among friends. Even if their knowledge of English is little to none, through their gesticulation and big smiles, you will know you are in a safe place.

Being a guest also means you will immediately be offered some Rakija, no matter what time of the day it is. So please try not to reject it even if you don’t feel like drinking. They will expect you to at least try it. If you don’t feel like drinking more, leave some in the bottom of your glass. Be aware that if you finish the entire glass, they are going to keep pouring more.

A Rakija session can surprise you at any time of the day, even in the morning, and will quickly put you in a tipsy state. So don’t overdo it, as this drink should be taken with a lot of respect.

Closeup of two hands with ambre colored Serbian Rakija glass vials toasting

Rakija Traditions

When you are among the locals, you will learn all there is to know about the old tradition of Rakija, and they will be happy to talk extensively about the subject. Still, here are a few tips to keep in mind: Good Rakija has a strong taste first, followed by a subtle fruity flavor.

Although Rakija is served in shot glasses, you do not need to drink it all in one sip. The first sip is the most important. Before taking this initial taste, exhale deeply, and then take a quick sip directly down your throat right to the stomach. Now take in a long breath through your nose. You should feel the burning in your chest, not in your throat. Try to distinguish the fruity flavor that appears gradually.

5 differently shaped bottles of Rakija grouped together. 1 tall bottle and 4 short round bottles

Now you are ready to start experiencing the world of Rakija. Your new goal is to try to find the most diverse home-made varieties of Rakija. You will have better luck in small towns where people can direct you to the people selling their own Rakija than in big cities.

Knock on a door, introduce yourself politely, and you could find yourself being drawn down into a cellar by an old man, where you end up trying various Rakijas directly from the barrel where they are being aged, and where you can buy bottles at a very cheap price (usually less than 10 euros per liter). Don’t be worried if you receive your Rakija in a reused mineral water plastic bottle–that’s as domace (homemade) as it can get!

And don’t forget to buy your own bottle and take it back home to share with your friends, as you tell them all about the tradition and rituals surrounding Rakija. In that bottle lies the spirit of a country full of history and hospitality.

Written by Ezequiel Gomez Davel for

Belgrade – 2017 Iron Curtain Tour

Friday 10th of March 2017

[…] in the heart of Belgrade. While the weather was cold and grey, the gracious company, Jelen and Rakija kept us quite […]

Dian Batsov

Thursday 29th of December 2016

Why, than, on the top picture is of the one of the famous BULGARIAN plum brandies, Elenska Slivova 15 y.o. Obviously, because is THE best among the best! :) Защо тогава основната ви снимка е на една от най-известните Български сливови ракии, Еленска Сливова 15год. Очевидно, защото е най-добрата между най-добрите! :)


Tuesday 4th of October 2016

Great article :) . I've tried literally every kind of alcohol ( beer, whiskey, wine, gin , vodka, tequila, coctails, etc, etc, etc, ) , despite red wine ( which I find as my favorite alcoholic drink ) , rakija is probablly best alcoholic drink on the world. ( of course when it's made from quality fruits without adittional sugar or something ) . Rakija make you feel alive. By the way I'm from Serbia ( sorry for bad english :) ) , there is joke here about rakija, we call it liquid cocaine :) ) : ). Just you need to know how to handle it, take it slowly, don't drink water after droping shot, drink water between shots, don't mix it with another alcohol, that's most important take it slowly, and after few hours you're gonna be in alcohol nirvana :D , and when you drink some water before sleep, tomorrow you're gonna feel great. Hangover is light and smooth, and if you don't drink really really too much, you're gonna feel relaxed and great tomorrow :). Don't ever miss oportunity to try Serbian rakija :) .


Saturday 20th of August 2016

Just returned from Serbia and had the chance to enjoy Rakija many times over. Excellent drink only surpassed by the generosity and great hospitality of the people of Serbia. What a beautiful place...would love to go back God permitting!

Beverly Bergeron

Wednesday 9th of December 2015

My nephew has requested a bottle of rakia plum brandy for christmas. Can it be purchased in the USA ?

Terri Fogarty

Sunday 13th of December 2015

I found several outlets in the US by googling "rakia plum brandy" good luck.

Comments are closed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Europe Up Close

Share your love for Europe!

Help spread the word. You're awesome for doing it!