“Moonshine” otherwise known as “Mountain Dew”, “White Lightening” or “Hooch” is an illegal, distilled, clear liquor often made in the hills during the night to avoid detection. “RAKI” however is a legally distilled liquor made on Crete from the debris left after making wine including pips, skins and stems etc. This is the only ingredient required so Raki is very cheap to produce, although, as most things are on Crete, very labour intensive. The season for making Raki begins immediately after the grape harvest which usually takes place at the end of October, beginning of November. The process of making Raki takes place in a “Kazani” and most villages, no matter how small, have at least one of these.  Our village has at least two that I know of.  The whole production becomes a great excuse for parties and barbecues in the kazanis. The Greeks love any excuse to party. Licences are granted to these local “Stills” and are only good for one month.

We were fortunate to be invited to visit a “Kazani” and watch the Raki making process and join the barbecue.  The Kazani that we visited was established a very long time ago and still uses all the traditional methods and equipment.  Each batch of Raki takes 1 hour and 10 minutes to process and produces 15 litres of liquor.  The heat is always provided by a wood fire.The humble “Kazani”

Aunt Maria is in charge.

The main (only) ingredient.

A block and tackle is needed to move this huge pot.

The top waiting to be turned upside down, and cemented onto the pot on the fire.

The spout is attached to a tube running into a pot that is being cooled in a tank of cold water.

This is the cooling vessel.

After the steam condenses a clear liquid drains into the collection pot.  This is RAKI.

Maria collecting the last of the Raki.Maria’s brother decanting the Raki for storage.

Cleaning up before starting the next batch.

This is what is left.  Nothing is wasted, maybe this goes to the chickens or compost for the garden.  Even the ashes from the fire are used to cook jacket potatoes.

Raki is drunk after a meal to aid digestion and is also used to rub onto joints to ease the pain of arthritus and applied to relieve the itching of insect stings and bites.

I’m experimenting with  Raki to make liqueurs, lemon, pomegranate and orange so far.  I have to use the generous gift of 1 1/2 litres of Raki from a friend and drinking it straight is not something for which I have acquired a taste. (Paint stripper springs to mind!)