Raki or Tsikoudia
RAKI OR TSIKOUDIA IS A LOCAL CRETAN DISTILLED ALCOHOLIC DRINK, A CLEAR AND FRAGRANT LIQUOR WHICH VISITORS ARE OFFERED AS A WELCOMING GESTURE, OR AT THE END OF A MEAL.
Raki contains about 37% alcohol, similar to Scotch whiskey or gin. It is served straight, in shot glasses, usually well chilled. Every autumn, after the grape harvest, various wine celebrations begin. Then comes the manufacture of raki. The custom of distilleries was instituted by Eleftherios Venizelos in 1920, when special permits were given to farmers to distill raki for additional income. The strafylla (crushed grapes), what is left behind once grapes have been pressed to make wine, are slowly boiled in special cauldrons. Drop by drop, raki begins to flow; very strong at first, almost pure alcohol, and then properly balanced.
The cretan raki is not just a local product. It is an intrinsic part of the identity of the local culture and expresses cretan hospitality.