A Cretan Raki "Tsikoudia" Guide


The Spirit of Crete: A Guide to Cretan Raki with Yannis Aleksakis

Before we delve into the world of Cretan Raki, allow me to introduce myself. I am  Yannis Aleksakis, husband to Mama Pelagia. But while Mama Pelagia tends to the bees, the herbs and the flowers and their golden bounty, my heart belongs to another Cretan treasure: Raki.

Our family, the Aleksakis family, has been proudly producing raki for generations, carrying on a tradition passed down through the years. You might even say raki flows through our veins! And through our Aleksakis Raki label, we strive to share the essence of Crete with every bottle.

Exploring the Essence of Cretan Raki

Raki, also known as tsikoudia, is the beloved traditional spirit of Crete, renowned for its pure, natural essence and rich history. Distilled from grape marc, the residue left after grapes are pressed for winemaking, raki is a crystal-clear elixir that embodies the flavors and aromas of the island.

Crafting Raki: From Grape to Glass

The process begins with fermenting the grape marc in barrels for up to 40 days, allowing the sugars to transform into alcohol. This fermented pomace is then carefully distilled in artisanal copper alembic stills called kazani. As the mixture heats and vaporizes, the alcohol-rich vapors condense to form the pure, transparent raki.

The Raki Feast: Rakokazana or Kazananema

A highlight of Cretan culture is the rakokazana or kazananema, a celebratory raki distillation feast that brings together communities. In mountain villages, locals gather around kazani, where licensed distillers work their magic. These festivities are marked by traditional Cretan music, lively dances, and shared dishes, creating an atmosphere of joy and camaraderie.

Raki: More Than a Drink

In Crete, raki isn't merely a beverage; it is a symbol of social interaction and connection. Whether greeting guests, relaxing in cafes, or celebrating, raki is ever-present, fostering a sense of conviviality. Its production, deeply rooted in ancient methods and familial traditions, adds to its allure.

Legacies and Licensing

The history of raki production in Crete is rich, with licensing dating back to the 1920s under Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos. Today, a few family businesses hold licenses to distill raki, with strict regulations governing production.

Variations and Enjoyment

Raki finds its place alongside a variety of Cretan delicacies. From meats and seafood to cheeses, sausages, and pickled vegetables, its intense flavor and digestive properties complement a wide array of dishes. For those seeking a sweeter note, rakomelo, a blend of raki and honey, offers a delightful alternative.

Health and Tradition

Moderation is key when enjoying raki, as with any strong spirit. Cretans believe in the benefits of raki when consumed in moderation, citing its potential to lower blood pressure and its antimicrobial properties. However, they also emphasize the importance of a balanced lifestyle, including a Mediterranean diet and regular exercise.

Aleksakis Biological Raki

Among the many Cretan raki producers, Aleksakis Biological Raki stands out for its commitment to quality and tradition. Made with carefully selected grapes from the Apokoronas European Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) area, Aleksakis raki promises an exceptional taste experience. Apokoronas is renowned for its ideal climate and fertile soil, perfect for cultivating grapes that impart distinct characteristics to the raki.


In conclusion, Cretan raki stands as more than just a drink; it is a symbol of Cretan identity, culture, and hospitality. From its artisanal production methods to its role in community celebrations, raki embodies the spirit of Crete. Whether sipped in a local tavern or enjoyed at a rakokazana feast, raki invites all to partake in the joyous traditions of this remarkable island. So, raise your glass, say "yamas" (cheers), and immerse yourself in the spirited world of Cretan raki.