site.btaRakia & Spirits Fest Sofia 2023 Debalkanizes Europe’s Powder Keg
The fragmentation of the Balkan Peninsula into small and often mutually hostile countries after the break-up of the Ottoman and Habsburg empires in the 19th and early 20th c. made such an impact that it led journalists and politicians to coin a new word: Balkanize and Balkanization. The term has since expanded to cover areas as diverse as linguistics, demography and gastronomy, to mention but a few.
But if there is anything on which all Balkan nations agree and are not averse to appreciating their neighbour's is rakia, the local hard liquor in its innumerable local varieties.
Bringing together makers and drinkers of this beverage from across the peninsula couldn’t be a more compelling way to eliminate the Balkanization prejudice.
This is precisely the underlying idea of the Rakia and Spirits Fest Sofia 2023, which will take place at Hall 6 of Sofia's National Palace of Culture on December 9 and 10.
Between 12 noon and 9 p.m. over the weekend, ticket-holding visitors can experience the richness, culture and taste of Balkan spirits. Equipped with a branded tasting glass (as a gift) and water (to stay hydrated between tastings), connoisseurs will be able to try for free more than 300 brands of rakia.
The 41 exhibitors at the Fest include large and small Bulgarian rakia, brandy and liqueur distilleries, makers of rakije from Serbia, of ouzo from Greece and of yeni raki from Turkey, importers and distributors of wines and spirits from across the world, producers of meat, sea food and nuts that perfectly pair the beverages, a restaurant and a gelateria, and the world’s sixth Vodka Museum which is located in Kavarna (on the Black Sea).
The Fest has been held for 12 years now, attracting 23,500 visitors who have emptied 6,800 bottles. The 2023 edition omits ‘Balkan’ from its name, showing an aspiration to broaden its horizons with guest spirits from other countries, like French cidre.
The entries will compete for prizes in ten categories: wine brandy, fruit distilled spirit, drink distilled from grape pomace, anise spirit, gin, vodka, rum, liqueur, and other spirit drinks. The prizes are a grand gold medal, a gold medal, a silver medal, a bronze medal, and a citation.
Three master classes are scheduled for December 9. At The Brandies of Black Sea Gold, visitors will be encouraged to taste products of that distillery that have aged for 5 to 33 years. The Distillate Drinks of the Iberian Peninsula beckon to a journey in the world of jerez (sherry) brandies. Finally, an enologist and a bar tender will introduce the curious to An Unconventional View of Rakia Cocktails.
The event comes complete with a Cocktail Zone with signature cocktails crafted by talented mixologists, a Food Corner with tempting flavours to refuel your energy during a visit, and a sales area where visitors can purchase the products that have impressed them.
Those limiting their expectations to an affordable stall crawl are in for a disappointment. Organizers, producers and brand representatives urge responsible and moderate consumption. The Fest is off limits to unaccompanied persons under 18. Trying brands on an empty stomach is discouraged, and enough food and water will be available. Exhibitors have the right to refuse to serve visibly intoxicated persons. Drunk, aggressive and otherwise misbehaving visitors will be asked to leave without a refund and will not be admitted back on the same day.