The Balkans is a complicated region that, unfortunately, is home to various rivalries and hostile attitudes towards each other’s neighbors. Despite this, there’s one thing that brings people together regardless of nationalities or borders: traditional alcohol drink. In this article, we’re going to delve into Romania. In particular, 10 examples of cultural Drinks in Romania ranging from Palinka to Țuică!
Romania is a Balkan country well known in mainstream circles for being the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler who was the inspiration for Bram Stockers Dracula. In lesser mainstream circles, the country is known for being the personal playground of Nicolae Ceausescu for decades. One of the only Eastern Bloc leaders to be executed by his own people as his empire collapsed around him in 1989.
Both communism and the post-communist years in Romania was a tough time for many. For many Romanians, sharing a glass or two of cultural drinks was a way for them to make even the most simple times feel a bit special. Thus, today there are many cultural drinks in Romania that have a special place in the heart of the nation.
1. Țuică – A Favorite of Vlad the Impaler
To kick off our list of cultural drinks in Romania is Țuică. This hearty beverage is rumored to have been the favorite drink of the infamous Vlad the Impaler back in the 17th century, despite urban legends stating that Vlad the Impaler’s favorite drink was the blood of his enemies. These days, Țuică is the national drink of Romania. It is essentially a strong brandy produced from fermented plums and traditionally drunk as an aperitif before a meal in Romania.
Similar to the Balkan drink Rakia, Țuică is often very strong and can run anywhere from 23% to 80% alcohol. As a result, it is consumed in small glasses and sipped slowly rather than as a shot as a rule. When it comes to making a toast at a family event, Romanians will usually opt for a glass of Țuică instead of wine.
Rachiu is not to be confused by the Rakia of Serbia, Bulgaria, and beyond. Rachiu is one of the cultural drinks of Romania that is similar to țuică. Instead of plums used in the latter, Rachiu uses pears.
Whilst the taste is different from țuică, you’re still guaranteed a very strong and very sweet form of Romanian alcohol. Rachiu is often drunk at meals in Romania. It can be served before the meal as an aperitif or afterward as a digestive.
3. Cultural Drinks in Romania Without a Recipe – Vișinată
Like many other cultural drinks in Romania, Vișinată has certainly earned its stripes over the years. Various historians believe this brandy made from sugar, alcohol, and sour cherries can trace its roots back over 2,000 years. Interestingly, there is no official recipe for Vișinată as it’s largely homemade and brewed in the back yards or cellars of Romanian homes.
Such recipes can vary massively. For example, some Romanians even combine Țuică with Vișinată during the fermentation process. This enables the finished product to have a combination of a far fruitier taste and a more intense depth. Vișinată, like Țuică, is meant to be enjoyed slowly and not as a shot.
4. Cultural Drinks of Romania Brewed in the Mountains – Afinată
In the same family of sweet liqueurs that vișinată belongs to is the fruit brandy called afinată. Traditionally, this drink is made from wild blueberries and has a strength of around 20% to 80% alcohol. Again, take your time and drink it slowly rather than as a shot. It was famously tested out by Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad.
Traditionally brewed at home in the Romanian mountains, this drink is harder to find at Romanian homestays as it is generally made in small quantities. However, in cities such as Bucharest and Brasov, you may be able to find commercially made varieties in restaurants and bars. But as always, homemade is best.
5. Romanian Beer
Whilst Romania has an abundance of spirits on offer, a list of cultural drinks in Romania would not be complete without mentioning the perfect beverage to drink when the temperature in Romania is scorching in the summer months: Romanian beer! There are many varieties of beer in Romania, but we’re going to look at the three most common and well-established brands in the country: Ursus, Ciucas, and Timisoareana beer.
The brewery of Timisoareana was one of the first breweries in Romania when it was founded in the town of Timisoara back in 1718. For the past 300 years it has been traditionally brewing tried and tested recipes of beer and is a favourite beer of Romanians.
The middle child of Romania’s main beers is Ursus. This brand of beer was found back in 1878 in the Mănăștur district of Cluj Napoca. Interestingly, Ursus was the first brewery in Romania to brew a specific beer dedicated to a music festival when it created Ursus: Untold for the acclaimed Untold Festival which took place in Cluj-Napoca at the Cluj Arena back in 2019.
Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.– Benjamin Franklin
Ciucas is the youngest of the three most common Romanian beers. It’s brewed in the mountains of Transylvania. The Ciucas brewery combines roasted malt, intensely flavored hops, and pristine water to create one of the most-loved beers across Romania. The name Ciucas comes from the mountain used to source the spring water used in the beer recipe.
6. Cultural Drinks in Romania from a Lost Territory – Moldovan Wine
When one thinks of fine wine, cultural norms draw us to destinations such as France, Italy, and, South Africa. However, Eastern Europe has an abundance of world class wine that has been brewed for centuries. Romania is no exception. This Balkan country is in fact the fifth-largest producer of wine in the whole of Europe. The ancient tradition of winemaking is one that Romania is immensely proud of.
Wine is one of the oldest cultural drinks in Romania and can trace its roots back to over 6,000 years ago. The most popular varieties of wine are made in what Romanians call Bessarabia. This is modern-day Moldova and formerly a part of Romania until it was ceded to the Soviet Union during the Second World War, something which is still a touchy subject in Romania. The two most popular types of Moldovan wine from Moldova is the red wine Feteasca Neagra and the white wine Feteasca Alba.
Last on the list, but certainly not least, is Palinka! This is one of the most well known cultural drinks of Romania but interestingly, it isn’t actually Romanian! Palinka is actually Hungarian and was created during the Middle Ages. After years of Hungarian-led conquest across central Europe and the Balkans, the drink found a place in the hearts of various nations from Poland to Romania.
Whilst originally spelled Palinka, Romanians call it Palinca. This age-old drink usually goes through a process of double-distillation and as a result is stronger than țuică. The strength of Palinka can range anywhere between 37% and 86%. The way to tell true, authentic pálinka is whether the variety you’re drinking allows the fruit to stand on its own merit without the help of added sugars, flavoring, or coloring.
With Palinca, there is also a lot more variety than drinks like țuică. You can find multiple flavors of Palinca which are made from plums, peaches, apricots, apples, pears, and sour cherries, and more! Palinca is very common in the Romanian region of Transylvania. As well as being the former stomping ground of Vlad the Impaler, this was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire for decades, hence the prevalence of Palinca. If you opt for traditional homestays when travelling in the region, expect locals to show their hospitality with a glass of one of the most prevalent cultural drinks in Romania.
“It’s true that in Romania I feel more relaxed, as if I’m wearing slippers.”– Dumitru Tepeneag
To round off our list of seven cultural drinks in Romania, we hope you found our list to be useful insight into the ancient and popular beverages in Romania. When traveling through the country, be sure to try them as I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. As always, drink responsibly and don’t try to outdrink locals. These beverages can be exceptionally strong and most Romanian adults have been well acquainted with them for a lot longer than you!