It is one of the most important traditional alcoholic beverages of Crete and Greece in general.
A bit of history states that the production of tsikoudia was developed during the Ottoman domination. According to the Koran, wine is forbidden, so people have to find a way of processing the wine.
After the Catastrophe of Smyrna, refugee producers of raki (rakitzides) sought a new opportunity for work and survival in Greece, and so their art began to spread.
The word tsikoudia comes from the word tsikoudo, which in the Cretan dialect means grapes. The production of tsikoudia is found in Ancient Greece. Research has shown that raki was used as a pharmaceutical, while Middle Ages Alchemists were trying to find the raki-based elixir of life.
Raki is a pure drink, as it does not contain dyes and industrial alcohols. It contains relaxing and anxiolytic properties so that the spirit and body calm down. However, it is a strong drink, with 37% alcohol content, so a measure is needed. Consuming raki with health benefits is as follows: it helps in blood pressure, it has antimicrobial action, it limits the cardiovascular problems and it has anticoagulant action. Raki is usually consumed, cold, but can be a special hot drink for the winter. Warming the tsikoudia and adding honey, cinnamon or pepper, we create the well-known rakomelo, which helps to warm up.
In modern history, references are made to Mount Athos as the place of the beginning of the tsikoudia, which was then spread throughout Greece during the Ottoman domination.
Every autumn after the harvest of the grape, various celebrations are organized. Domestic distillation of alcoholic beverages is not legal. Traditional distillation in “kazania” as it meets today takes place in places where there is a permit from the state. The custom of the rakokazano was instituted by Eleftherios Venizelos in 1920. At that time the farmers were granted the permission and the financial support for the production of the tsikoudia. In 1988, the specifications for the distillate and its industrial production were set and the tsikoudia was produced only by holding the appropriate equipment.
Raκοκαzano is not so much the economic activity that makes it important, it is a social phenomenon and tradition. During the rakokazano can be found from 2 to 100 people. They create a whole feast where guests make their presence at any time of the day. Mantinades, dances, amateur musicians …. make up this beautiful and special celebration of raki.
Raki is a point of reference for Crete, in every table dominates and accompanies both joy and sadness. Each visitor will be welcomed on the island, offering him a shot of raki. For many, it is an indication of friendship and respect, as well as a communication tool. For the tsikoudia have been written infinite mantinades.
In the rest of Greece, raki is consumed with some variations such as tsipouro. Their difference is that tsipouro is a derivative of double distillation while the tsikoudia of one distillation. During the second distillation, the aniseed is added to the drink or other aromatics and the tsipouro is created.
The Production Process of Raki.
In early autumn, the production process begins. It is made in specially designed spaces. The kazani(big pot) used by the producers is of various dimensions and consists of three parts. The kazani, the pot lid and the tube that the steam carries. Grapes after pressing are stored for 40 days in fermentation barrels. Then place them in the kazani together with water. Producers light the fire and start to simmer. Alcohol in grapes evaporates due to high sugars. Steam circulates in the pipe, which starts from the kazani. Outside the tube circulates cold water that cools and liquefies the steam, which ends up in a clay pot. The pace of this process must be very slow and steady.
The producer measures the grades of distillate and adds water accordingly. When the drinks grades reach the desired level, the cauldron is completed. Grades are about 18.
With a resolution in the EEC in 1989 (No 1576/89) on alcoholic beverages, the following names were registered by Greece and Turkey. Turkey has named raki and Greece the name of tsikoudia of Crete, tsipouro Tirnavos, and tsipouro of Thessaly, etc.