A very traditional and ancient alcoholic drink of Crete being also a product of grapes is “raki” or “tsikoudia”. After the grapes as squeezed for extracting the must which will then be fermented, the remainders (known as pomace), i.e., the grape skins and seeds, are being distilled for producing raki. Note that the pomace is kept in barrels, where it is fermented, for about six weeks before distillation takes place. Distillation uses special raki distillation pots (known as “rakokazana”) and takes place usually in autumn months after the vintage. Raki is a strong digestive drink containing between 25% and 30% alcohol and is similar to the Italian grappa. It is high in antioxidants and very limited consumption has some benefits for the digestive system. Note also that in the past (sometimes even nowadays!) raki was used as medicine in case of pain of injury in the form of skin rub (other types of rubs were not existing).
In Crete raki is offered in the form of shots at all occasions. It is the welcoming or farewell drink and at restaurants usually accompanies dessert as digestive. Sometimes it is also offered together with the starters. In a particular restaurant type in Crete, known as “rakadiko”, raki also accompanies the meal, which is not uncommon. We tend to believe that there is no other drink more connected to Crete than raki!
Another drink being a combination of raki and honey is “rakomelo”. This is produced by warming raki and dissolving honey in it. The outcome is a strong, flavoursome and aromatic drink that in the past used to be a medicine for people having a cold or flu! Nowadays it is a trendy drink of young crowds and has become popular all over Greece.