If last year we unraveled for you the secrets of the Romanian traditional dishes, now it is time for the hard stuff: the Best Romanian Traditional Drinks. We will mention both the alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages popular in our country, and every traveler should try them while touring Romania.
They say food can be tastier with the proper drink on the side and we couldn’t agree more. So keep reading and discover “the Best Romanian Traditional Drinks”:
1. Romanian plum brandy “ţuica”
“Țuica” is considered Romania’s national drink, and we can say that it is more popular even than wine. It will not be possible to travel around the country too long without being invited to drink ţuica.
"In the beginning, there was the plum, then - ţuica - arrived.
It sounds quite biblical, indeed, but as you already guessed, ţuica is a homemade brandy in which the main ingredient is the plum.
Foreign travelers call it eau-de-vie or Romanian moonshine. No matter how you name it, no lunch or dinner starts without drinking a glass of this brandy or without a toast. This drink is powerful, and it can reach between 25 and 65% concentration of alcohol.
Romanians drink ţuica in small glasses. So, we can say that the standard quantity is a shot, which is drunk in small sips. Especially foreigners are advised to follow this drinking technique; otherwise, they can be in danger of speaking the Romanian language fluently. Of course, those more familiar with this kind of spirit can dare to try two shots. So, drink it straight and give it as many second chances as you feel able.
There are many recipes for ţuica, and most of it is made in private distilleries in the countryside, in small quantities for each family’s own consumption. According to statistics, more than half of the plum harvest is found in the bottle of ţuica. But plums are not the only ones. Romanians also use other fruits like apples, peaches, apricots, and so on.
Any Romanian has in the countryside a relative who makes ţuica. The process starts with at least 30 days of fruit fermentation. Then, the fermented fruits boil in special caldrons, and the steam of alcohol is captured and turned into liquid in a cold water caldron. This is ţuica. In some regions of Romania, ţuica is distilled one more time. Thus, we obtain an even stronger drink known as “palinca.” During our tours of Romania, we stop at small distilleries in the villages, and the locals show us how they make ţuica, and of course, we get to try it when it’s done. These stops are very appreciated and very interesting for all our tourists.
Țuica has become an important part of the Romanians’ lives. This drink accompanies all Romanian festivities or celebrations, including baptisms, weddings, local and traditional fairs, and even wakes/mournings. Instead of money, ţuica is used as a part of a small remuneration for different works in some parts.
Depending on the concentration of alcohol and the region of the country, țuica is known under different names: “horinca” in Northern Romania, Maramures region, “jinars” in Cluj Napoca, and palinca most of all in Transilvania (the word palinca is of Hungarian origins).
Besides having mulled wine during the cold season, Romanians prepare a sort of mulled țuica with pepper.
Where can you find Romanian țuica?
This is precious information. Isn’t it? Well, today, one can buy țuica from most supermarkets. One of the most known brands is Zetea. You can order the plum brandy at any Romanian traditional restaurant: City Grill, Hanu lui Manuc, Hanul Berarilor, Caru cu Bere, La Placinte, Vatra, Zexe. There is also the possibility of finding it at local traditional fairs or harvest festivals in big or small cities and also in the souvenir shops:
Maybe the most authentic taste is to be found in the countryside. When you buy it from the locals, you get a drink and a good and colorful conversation. Buying țuica in bottles of Coca-Cola or Pepsi is definitely a travel experience to remember.
And of course, there is always a more practical way of purchasing it online.
2. “Afinata” and “vișinata,” the softer sisters of plum brandy
The taste of ţuica is quite strong. As you sip it, it leaves a throat burning sensation, and you feel the heat over your whole body. However, brandy is considered to improve digestion and the fact that it helps you get rid of shyness.
However, there is an alternative to ţuica, for those of a moreover gentile nature.
“Afinata” and “vișinata” are fruit liquors, not as strong as ţuica and definitely sweeter.
Afinata is an alcoholic beverage made from blueberry syrup to which alcohol is added. Vișinata is an alcoholic beverage made from sugar-fermented cherries to which alcohol is added. It is sweet, with an intensely fruity taste, nuanced by the secondary ingredients used (vanilla, rum, other fruits, and raspberries).
3. “Socata” – Romanian elderflower juice
Well, this is really something special. Summer is just around the corner, so we definitely must include to our list the elderflower juice. The first time I tried, it happened in Transylvania, and it was love at first taste.
The elderflower juice or the Romanian “socata” is the best traditional refreshing drink for summer. It is non-alcoholic and is made by fermenting elderflowers with sugar, lemon, and water. Depending on the date of the blossom, the elderflower juice is made and drunk in May-June.
For centuries, the elderflower was considered a great remedy for different diseases. Even today, it is believed to be a great booster for the immune system and a great source of vitamins.
During May and June, most of the restaurants in Romania serve socata. The best ones we tasted were in Sighisoara, Sibiu, and Bucovina area.
More so, Fanta produced the elderflower-flavored Fanta in southern European countries, “Fanta Shokata.” Of course, you cannot compare it to fresh juice, but this way, you understand how popular this drink is in our country.
In the countryside, the locals preserve the elderflowers over the years, like syrup. This way, they can prepare the juice whenever they want. Of course, they also sell this syrup, and you can buy it straight from the small producers or online and make your own elderflower juice. Either way, a trip to Romania must include this drink during May and June.
Check our small group tours to Romania and get ready to discover authentic favors and surprising stories. The shared Treasures of Romania Tour or the shared Romania Countryside Tour are great opportunities to taste some of the Best Romanian Traditional Drinks and meet wonderful people.
Stay close for Part 2.