Best Croatian Rakija To Try (Ultimate Guide)

Croatian rakija foreigners should try

Croatia is known for its delicious brandy called rakija and it would be a shame if you are keen on brandies yet never tried a famous rakija while visiting Croatia.

It’s not unusual for Croatian kids to experience their first rakija when they become teenagers, and among its obvious drinking purpose, it holds curing properties when applied as medicine.

Although I am not a proud alcoholic, I must state that I probably tried every single type of rakija out there since I am right now entering my older twenties.

So, I thought I could create an ultimate guide on Croatian rakija, to explain why rakija is so popular and which one should you try!

To make it easier to follow I’ll mention both liquor (above 30% alcohol rakija) and liqueurs which are also made with rakija but are also mixed with other ingredients and are sweet, which also makes them rarely exceed 30% alcohol.

Best Croatian rakija You Must Try

Let’s begin with strong, typical rakija varieties or in other words liquors.

Sljivovica (slivovotza)

Sljivovica is rakija made from plums as the name sljivovica comes from Croatian word “sljiva” for plums.

Sljivovica has a light to medium amber color and it has a strong fruity taste with minor sweetness and tartness from the plums.

Moreover, if slivovitz had enough time to age in the oak barrels you’ll notice woody and smoky flavors.

Sljiovica is often served as a traditional drink during celebrations and social gatherings, but can also be used in cooking and baking.

You can enjoy it at room temperature or slightly chilled in small shot glasses.


Travarica is a herbal rakija and its name comes from the Croatian word “trava” for herb.

Herbs such as sage, rosemary, mint, chamomile, and thyme are steeped in alcohol, usually in Lozovaca, to produce distinct flavor profiles and medicinal properties.

Travarica has a light to medium golden color, and a strong herbal and complex flavor.

Due to its medicinal properties, Travarica is served as an after-dinner digestif, used in cooking and baking, used for treating illnesses, or enjoyed as a standalone drink similar to other rakija types.


Biska is another herbal rakija traditionally distilled and made in the Istrian region of Croatia.

It’s made by steeping mistletoe leaves in Komovica rakija and other herbs and spices such as cloves, cinnamon, and anise.

Biska has a golden to amber color and a unique herbal, spicy, and minorly sweet aroma that compliments its bitter nature that comes from Komovica.

Biska is used similarly to Travarica, so it can be enjoyed as a standalone drink and used in cooking or as an after-dinner digestif.

If you ever travel to Istria, try Biska as its unique aroma is like in no other rakija.

Loza (Lozovaca )

Lozovaca is a light golden rakija made from fermented and distilled grapes, so it has a distinctly fruity and slightly floral aroma.

Lozovaca is a beautiful but strong rakija that will leave you with a slight alcohol burn in your mouth, yet don’t worry as you’ll soon ask for another.

Lozovaca, due to its powerful, yet complimenting taste and clean profile is also a popular base rakija for many sweet and herbal rakija types such as medica and borovicka, and travarica.

It’s also worth having some loza on a shelf as it can be used for cooking great dishes!


Komovica is rakija made from distilling the residue left over (grape skins, stems, and seeds) from the wine-making process.

Usually, komovica has a clear color and strong fruity flavor similar to lozovaca.

If you like strong rakija, you’ll appreciate its bitterness and warming sensation surrounded by fruity aromas that come from grapes.


Vilijamovka is rakija made by distilling fermented William’s pear juice which gives it a distinctive fruity flavor.

A standard vilijamovka is clear and has a smooth, sweet taste with notes of floral aroma while bitterness may vary depending on the quality of pears and the method of distillation.

Vilijamovka is ideally served as a dessert drink or an aperitif and tastes the best when it’s chilled.


Don’t get confused here, there’s a difference between Borovnicka and Borovicka but you’ll easily spot the difference as Borovnicka has a deep violet color while Borovicka has a clear or sometimes yellow color.

Borovicka is rakija made by distilling the berries, while Borovnicka is made by using Lozovaca rakija as a base and then the berries, sugar, or red wine are added.

Borovicka is similar to gin in taste and appearance and usually has higher alcohol content making it bitter alongside the minor fruity flavor coming from distilled berries.


Medica is a Croatian liqueur made from traditional lozovaca rakija as a base mixed with honey.

While most rakija varieties have higher alcohol levels, Medica typically ranges from 15% to 30% alcohol like other liqueurs and has a delicious, sweet honey flavor backed up with low or medium bitterness.

You’ll find medica everywhere as it’s among the most popular Croatian rakija appreciated for its deliciously sweet flavor profile.

I mean, rakija made with honey sounds promising, especially when quality, local honey is used in the making.


Borovnicka is a violet-colored Croatian liqueur made from lozovaca rakija as a base mixed with blueberries and sometimes an addition of red wine.

Borovnicka is just as popular as medica and of the same alcohol content, so it’s another great choice for those who have a sweet tooth.

Borovnicka has a strong blueberry flavor that overcomes the harsh alcoholic taste, and due to its lower alcohol content, it’s the ideal rakija for cheering up with friends every 15 minutes.


Kruskovac is a sweet liqueur made with rakija (lozovača), sugar, pear extract, and spices such as cinnamon and vanilla.

Kruskovac has a clear, golden color and an obvious fruity aroma coming from pears with subtle notes of vanilla and cinnamon.

This amazing sweet liqueur is often served as an aperitif and if you are keen on sweet liqueurs put it on the list, you won’t regret it.

I remember how obsessed I was with Kruskovac as a kid, my parents wouldn’t let me touch it because it contains alcohol but one day I fooled them and licked the leftovers on the glass and since that day I fell in love with it.


Orahovac is a liqueur with a deep tradition in Croatia and it’s common for Croats to serve you with some when you come by for a visit.

Orahovac name comes from the Croatian word for walnut “orah” and it’s made from green walnuts soaked in rakija (usually lozovača).

This deep brown-colored liqueur is extra sweet and has a strong nutty aroma so the alcohol is hidden from the palate.

It’s not easy to get drunk from such sweet liqueurs as you can’t have too many due to strong concentrated flavors and sweetness.

Orahovac and similar liqueurs are there to be enjoyed in small quantities.


Pelinkovac is a Croatian herbal liqueur of dark brown color and a strong aroma of herbs.

Pelinkovac is a story for itself, the distinct flavor isn’t found in any other rakija/liqueur, so you either love it or hate it.

The strong presence of herbs makes it taste medicinal and bitter which is something that some people love and others aren’t keen on.

I find the temperature to play the biggest role here, as a warm pelinkovac is something I can’t chew, but if it’s properly chilled it can be a wonderful drink even for those not keen on herby liqueurs.

In conclusion, if you like Jägermeister you will probably like Pelinkovac.

How do you pronounce the famous Croatian rakija?

Rakija TypePronunciation
The pronunciation tips for rakija names

What is the most popular rakija in Croatia?

The popularity of rakija changes as you travel from one region to a region, but some Croatian default popular rakija is Sljivovica.

Yet, this is a really difficult question to answer as we Croats believe that one shouldn’t discriminate against rakija and drink every rakija equally as long as you are standing on your good feet.

If you go to a bar that serves rakija, it’s likely that you’ll see a majority of people drinking either medica or borovnicka, with some rakija enthusiasts who like to get drunk and don’t let their hands off strong rakija like Sljivovica or Vilijamovka.

How is Croatian rakija made?

Croatian rakija is typically made with plums and grapes, water, sugar, and yeast, but some rakija can be made from other fruit such as pears and berries.

The first stage of making includes fermentation and then in the second stage the fermented liquid is distilled in order to collect the good alcohol from the bad ones such as methanol.

In this slow process, the end result is a clear liquid with a high concentration of alcohol.

Every good rakija should be as clean as possible at this stage and the color should only change as a consequence of adding herbs, spices, or aging in the oak barrels.

Sometimes home rakija makes don’t clean their equipment properly and thus the rakija may be yellowish and have a higher concentration of bad alcohol which can cause a hangover.

This is typical for rakija locally named “brlja” and you should avoid it.

How much alcohol is in rakija?

Croatian rakija ranges from 15% to 40% alcohol and this typically applies to most commercial rakija you can find. However, it’s possible to find stronger rakija that can go up to around 60%, but such a strong rakija is usually made from people unofficially at home.

Rakija content really depends on the manufacturer, so it’s not typical for sweet rakija such as medica or borovnicka to step outside of the 15-30% alcohol range. These sweet rakija types are enjoyed as multiple shots in bars, so it makes no sense for the house to rock you out of feet unless you spent enough.

However, strong rakija such as sljivovica or travarica is supposed to seriously exhilarate you, so be careful!

Medicinal properties of rakija

Rakija has been traditionally used in Croatia as a cure for everything, starting from toothache to dealing with bruises and arthritis.

The medicinal properties of rakija are well documented and it was the first and most important remedy in everyone’s home in the past.

Today, our grandmas still make their miraculous concoctions with rakija and defeat modern medicine, but with the increasing drinking culture, more and more people believe that drinking is a better usage of such a magnificent liquid.

I don’t enjoy drinking rakija often as it can be a distraction, but there’s no better cure when I get stomaches.

The most popular rakija used as a remedy is travarica as it naturally contains herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and chamomile. On average there are 10-20 different herbs in travarica, so it totally makes sense!

How easy is it to drink rakija?

Most rakija goes easily down the throat and the sweeter the rakija, the easier it is to drink it. However, not all rakija is sweet and some can be very strong in alcohol, so it will take some experience to master the drinking of strong, non-sweetened rakija.

Bear in mind that you can easily get drunk from rakija, so don’t drink too much in a short period of time.

It’s not unusual for foreigners to get their hand on rakija, quickly drink one, two, three, and expect they can continue onto the fourth and fifth within the same hour.

Most rakija varieties have high alcohol percentages and you won’t feel the effects straight away but rather within 10 minutes of taking a shot.

So, while you’ll notice straight away that harsh, non-sweetened rakija will make you dizzy just by the harsh alcoholic taste and smell, sweet rakija might fool you as it’s harder to notice the alcohol straightaway.

Does rakija give you a hangover?

When properly consumed in moderation, good quality rakija won’t give you a hangover.

It doesn’t need to be mentioned that the more you drink anything with lots of alcohol in it, the worse the hangover gets.

However, drinking in moderation and not forgetting to drink water alongside rakija will ensure you don’t wake up with a terrible hangover the next day.

Most Croatian rakija you can find in restaurants, pubs, clubs, and other popular tourist attractions are decent to high quality, so you’ll have a great time.

Yet, there’s an unofficial rakija called “brlja” by locals, and this is something you want to be careful with.

Brlja might be enjoyable, but it can cause hangovers untypical for other quality rakija.

While brlja is not harmful, it’s just not the quality rakija but rather the rakija made by locals who didn’t bother to properly filter the impurities.

If you meet locals, they invite you to their place and they offer you a brlja, run away or be careful with how much you drink as it can lead to a serious hangover the next day.

While Croatians will drink brlja when desperate, it’s not the best representation of the quality of Croatian rakija!

Is rakija stronger than vodka?

Vodka is a popular alcoholic drink that doesn’t require any explanation, but it’s not anywhere close in taste to rakija.

Both rakija and vodka have a standard 40% ABV on average, so it’s not that one is stronger than the other.

However, it’s possible to make any alcoholic drink stronger than a standard, so it’s possible to find vodka and rakija nearly at 70% alcohol.

Final take

There you go, I hope I managed to introduce you to the world of Croatian brandies called rakija.

There is something for everyone and each rakija is unique, so it can be a wonderful experience to try whatever rakija you find in the region of Croatia you are visiting.

Every rakija has a story and its own essence that makes it special and the best of all is that it connects people.

Trust me, whenever someone brings a rakija out in Croatia, the greatest enemies become brothers and sisters.


Dino is a local who has spent 27 years of his life in Croatia. He's here to provide you with useful information and some local guidance.

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