Tsikoudia – Distillery


Autumn is already there and the stoves smoke in the villages. Everywhere there is a smell of wet soil. It is the time when chestnuts accompany a glass of tsikoudia. Slowly the preparations for the harvest of the olive begin. The remains of the pressed grapes have been sealed in the barrels and after the completion of the fermentation they are ready for distillation. Tsikoudia, according to the legislation in force, must have 37,5% alcohol and its maximum methanol concentration should not be more than 8 gr. per litre.

The distillation all over Greece is allowed only with a special permit. In all villages there are special cauldrons in which the remains of the grapes and the liquid of the barrels are placed, sealed airtight and boiled until the temperature is proper for the distillation to start. From the cover of the cauldron begins a pipe which is usually cooled externally with water so that the steam produced becomes liquid and then comes out as tsikoudia.

The “protoraki”(=first raki) is the first distillation that flows from the cauldron and is particularly high-degree. In Crete, in many villages, berries are still distilled to make mournoraki (=berry raki). In the past even arbutus berries were distilled.

The host usually invites friends and a barbecue party is organized in the autumn landscape, with coals from the fire of the cauldron, makeshift tables and Cretan snacks: excellent wild mushrooms, chestnuts, cheese pies and greens, all products of this specific season. Even today the tradition continues, showing, through the agricultural activities, how important the gatherings of people are in the Cretan society.