Last week we had a rakia tasting at Rakia Bar in Leslieville. Dušan Varga the bar's proprietor, started with a Rakia Bar in Belgrade, Serbia, and has now brought this relaxed Balkan fruit brandy experience to Toronto.
( David Gulyas, with a perfect bartender moustache )
The bar is decorated with bright upholstery, contrasting nicely with grey walls and a mural of that famous Serbian, Nikola Tesla. They even use Tesla inspired old-school long filament bulbs for lighting.
We had a "flight" or sampler of rakia served in special glassware that encouraged sipping and discouraged shooting. The rakias were accompanied by mezes or appetizers that complemented the unique flavour profiles of each sample of spirit.
First of the six rakias we tried was quince. It had quite the bite like grappa, with the subtle flavour of quince. We were told that it took 25 kg of quince to extract a litre of spirit and that it's tricky to distil because it burns easily. This was paired with quince jam sandwiched between two slices of Kashkaval (medium aged sheep's milk cheese).
Pear rakia was next, made from American pears from Oregon. It must've been some gustatory-olfactory illusion, but I swear I could feel that gritty pear texture in my mouth, even though I knew it was perfectly clear and 80 proof pure. Unlike the quince that used traditional batch distillation, the pear rakia used a continuous distillation process where a specific fraction of the volatile compounds is continuously separated. The pear rakia was paired with a prosciutto wrap with walnuts and Bulgarian feta.
Apricot rakia was next paired with dried apricot, suckling pig, mayo, chives, and pork crackling. The apricot rakia goes particularly well with sweet fruits.
The Plum rakia was the first of two we tried that were oaked. That definitely gave a single malt like character that's sure to confuse your Scotch loving friends. The plum rakia was my favourite for its more complex flavour and mouth feel. This was paired with a duck-neck sausage with a blackberry and cheese.
The next oaked rakia was juniper. This rakia was double distilled, first from plums and second with juniper. It's like an ephemeral whisky-gin hybrid. The juniper rakia was paired with a delightful sour cherry stuffed with a pralined chocolate raisin.
The last rakia on our tasting flight was honey, made with acacia honey in plum brandy. Often called the ice wine of rakia, this was Stacey's favourite. It's a great dessert drink and goes well with fruit preserves. We also felt that this was one of the more delightfully dangerous rakias since it went down really smoothly without you feeling that 38% alcohol in it. A honey rakia will hopefully be available at the LCBO soon.
We had the honey rakia with a preserved kiwi topped with an amazing piece of candied ginger.
We also tried a few cocktails: one with sour cherry, one with egg whites and ginger, and a mojito. All rakia based and all very very good.
To round out the evening, we were entertained by the Balkan-gypsy-party-punk "Lemon Bucket Orkestra."
1402B Queen St. E. (near Greenwood).
11 a.m.-2 a.m. every day except Monday, 5:30 p.m.-2 a.m.
Posted by: Mark Rodas