Tuica – Romania’s “White Lightning”
Romania’s got more than Dracula and Transylvania.
When we think of Romania, several things may come to mind: gloomy images of spooked peasants hoisting pitchforks and torches, dark, crumbling castles perched atop mountains illuminated by cracked flashes of lightning, rolling hills dotted by huts and farmlands set beneath dark, swollen clouds.
Well… it does encompass Transylvania, the birthplace of the Dracula legend. These ghoulish associations aside, Romania is a fascinating country with a beautiful geography and breath-taking landscapes, friendly and warm people, and lots of fascinating history to explore.
Apart from being a beautiful and attractive country to visit, not to mention a hot tourist spot as of late, Romania has something very special to contribute to unique alcoholic beverages. In America, some circles make their own “white lightning” or “white whiskey” for personal consumption, that is not available on store shelves. People popularly know this illegal alcoholic kick-back sipper as moonshine.
Few know, however, that Romania has its own clear and colorless liquid with a kick, and it’s actually the country’s national beverage! This strong spirit is called Tuica.
The production of this famous national pick-me-up (or drop-you-down if you’re not careful) all starts with the dark fruit we tend to enjoy from summer into early autumn: plums. Plum trees make up the bulk of most orchards in Romania, so the plum is where it all starts for this little-known spirit. Apparently, roughly three-quarters of all plums picked off the trees in Romania are used in the production of this drink.
Essentially, tuica is fermented and distilled plums. Unlike beer and wine where yeast is used for the fermentation process, tuica and the plums used to make it must then go through a distillation process after fermentation to transform it into its colourless, final form.
Preparation of tuica usually begins in October when the leaves begin to show their warm, autumn colours and lasts into early December. Good tuica, and the one you want to be drinking, is made of nothing but plums and yeast with no sugar involved in the process whatsoever. Fermentation of this beverage can last anywhere from 6-8 weeks, when it is then ready for its next step: distillation.
After fermentation with the yeast, this plumy, gooey mess is then heated underneath wood fires or charcoals so that the precious alcohol vapours can be captured in a copper tube or brass still – this is distillation. What we are finally left with is a clear and warming plum spirit with a proof of about 104 (abv of roughly 52, but can vary).
Now it is ready for consumption. The most common time to throw back some tuica is before a meal, where the locals feel it’s essential (and necessary) to start any culinary event with a shot or two – tuica purportedly increases your appetite.
Drinking tuica is not relegated solely to before-meal consumption, but is also heartily consumed at sporting events, weddings, hunting festivals, and many other gatherings. It is even customary to toast with tuica instead of wine or Champagne, and is preferred as a welcoming warmer for any guest visiting your home in Romania.
So, on your next visit to Romania, don’t forget what all those plum trees you see are really for. The country’s national beverage is a fantastic exploration into plum brandy and is a unique facet of their culture and heritage – Cheers
Written by Max Stein with RhoMania, “Helping people enjoy life more, one beverage at a time.”
Website Blog: http://www.rhomania.com/blog-00/