It is the blessings of these lands that universally unites us, people of; whether you are Macedonian, Bulgarian, Greek or Turkish. Besides many things, of course I am also considering alcohol here. Mastika, Uzo and Raki deserve special praise.
Similar, but also very different, these three beverages are only specific to this region. Everyone praises theirs as superior to the others with a great sense of pride. We are not comparing the drinks, we can only speak of how much we like it.
The philosophy associated with all three is quite simple. Whether you drink Mastika, Uzo or Raki, you take the drink with mezes.
The three drinks have very similar aspects. They are all consumed with ice, they all have old traditions dating back to a few centuries, they are also said to have medical benefits as well. However, when it comes to national dishes and drinks, patriotic feelings of Balkan nations cannot be underestimated. Such that it’s hard to find someone who admits that the neighbour’s drink is better than theirs. With that said, here is the reality of the situation:
In Macedonia, Mastika is a type of drink known for its long time tradition, according to some rumours, this drink has been produced in this region for three centuries. The best mastika is produced in the region Strumica. The Strumicans claim that they are made of natural ingredients, in other words, wine distillate, fennel and acacia honey. According to many studies conducted in the past, it has been shown that it mastika helps to get rid of helicobacteria to a certain extent. Since 1990, mastika by Strumica has been registered as a national brand. On average, the rate of alcohol in Mastika 47 percent.
Despite all these actions, the Greek ouzo remains a more popular beverage than mastika in many parts of the country. Many bars do not serve Strumican mastika, but it is a fact that they do offer you many kinds of ouzo instead.
Ouzo is widely accepted as Greece’s most popular drink. There are almost no tourists who visit Greece and do not taste at least one bottle of this magic aperitif. An ancient Greek proverb says: “Оuzo makes the spirit.” And there is no Greek who wouldn’t admit that an iced glass of ouzo with good appetizer is the perfect drink for a friendly chat.
The classic Greek ouzo is comprised of a grape distillate, to which different herbs and fruits such as anise, mint, raspberry and hazelnut are added. On average, the rate of alcohol is 40 percent. However, it is normally diluted with a few pieces of ice. Therefore, ouzo turns white and on the surface of the drink, crystals known as “Ouzo effect” are formed. The island of Lesvos is known as the “ouzo production centre” of Greece.
Also, ouzo is used to relieve stomach or headaches in Greece. It may seem crazy but in Crete, it is used to break the morning spur.
Raki is the unofficial national drink of Turkey. Raki which is produced by double distillation of grapes is then supplemented with anise. Traditionally, a special metal container with ice is used and water is usually added to the raki. After the dilution process, a white mixture of milk is obtained, which is called “lion’s milk” among the people. On average, the rate of alcohol in raki 45 percent.
Wine was the most favourable drink during the Ottoman Empire, but towards late 19th century, raki took over.
Raki, accompanied by fish, appetizer and a friendly conversation is a must have that you can never have enough of.
Raki is a legend that the years could not wear out. It is the most effective “love antidote” ever invented. It is the best drink to deal with sadness and sorrow. Drinking is good, but being drunk with it is a whole different level. It is the desired compound to flow in the veins instead of blood. It is the most delicious when consumed with cheese and melon. The chat without raki doesn’t really qualify as a chat.
Raki, Ouzo or Mastika also has a cousin by the name of “Arak” – thanks to the shared geography and history.
Finally, we will offer you a recipe. The recipe requires only half a liter of mastic, ouzo or new raki and a watermelon weighing three to five kilograms. Cut the top of the watermelon and fill it with the drink of your choice. Put it in the fridge until the alcohol and watermelon form a delicious iced dessert.
Enjoy the cold drink and the good appetizer.