The end of October and the beginning of November signals the end of the wine harvest season and the beginning of the local tradition of distilling raki — a clear potent alcoholic spirit — and the celebrations that go along with it. If you are in Naxos during this time, ask about where the local “rakitzio” is happening and get ready to experience local food culture at its best.
Every year, local residents — with a special license — take the remnants of the wine press (skins, pulp, seeds, stems of the grape) that have been fermented (for about 40 days) of the season’s vintage and boil them in large cauldrons (pots known as a “kazani”) set on a wood burning fire to begin the distillation process and the making of raki.
The pots are sealed tight. As the ingredients boil, the vapor passes through a tube-like nozzle and is mixed with cold water resulting in the clear spirit, raki. Made without any added preservatives, the first quantity is considered quite potent and not used for drinking. The litres that remain are set at about 30-40% alcohol level.
Awaiting the final product (apostagma), guests gather around to partake in festivities called “rakitzio” including nibbling on mezé, dancing and singing to local traditional music.
Raki: A Quick Guide
Raki is a potent distilled spirit (alcoholic beverage 30-40%) often called tsipouro or tsikoudia in Crete, zivania in Cyprus.
Rakomelo also known as “Psimeni Raki” — Popularly made on the island of Amorgos and Schinoussa adds a bit of honey and spices to the mix. Often served warm, this sweet is said to be good for winter colds.