Five generations of Rakija production and two thousand-year-old cousins ​​are behind Sydney’s new DNA distillery

A McDonald’s restaurant may not be a conventional venue for a crucial opening meeting on a potential business plan, but this is where cousins ​​Monique Sutevski and James Projcevski came up with the idea for DNA Distillery, Sydney’s first rakija (pronounced ra-ki-ya) distillery.

As first-generation Macedonian-Australians, followed by five generations of rakija distillers, it would be an understatement to say that the couple grew up with the Balkan spirit. They remember how they used to watch their dedo (grandfather) ferment and distill his own batches in the backyard. But it turns out he was not the first in the family to make rakija.

“We found out that five generations ago, our great-great-grandfather, who is on my father’s side, made rakija for his village, and people left the neighboring villages just to buy from him,” says Projcevski. Broadsheet. “It also turns out that this included my mother’s family, who lived in another village. People from her family would go to this village where my Dedo was, buy him and then take it back to their weddings. “

Rakija was the favorite drink for any family event. “When someone is in the cemetery and you celebrate their life, you drink rakija, when someone is born, you drink rakija – that’s our Scottish,” Sutevski says.

But what is rakija really? Projcevski explains that while rakija shares similarities with other clearly distilled spirits such as grappa, ouzo, arak and moonshine, certain nuances distinguish them.

“They all come from the same beginning 99 percent of the time, which is grapes. If you take it to its most basic principle, rakija is a clear spirit with flavor in it,” he says. “For someone who has never tried it, you can think a bit like a gin. But where gin has a juniper flavor, the taste of rakija comes from the fruit you produce it from. “

DNA Distillery uses chemical-free, organic, hand-picked bold and full-bodied Australian shiraz grapes from the cool Hilltops region of southern New South Wales. The cousins ​​remain true to their rakija-producing heritage by using their family recipe, which involves three weeks of natural fermentation to create a shiraz wine and then distilling twice for two weeks in a specialty still flown in from Poland.

“We want to keep everything as clean and clean as possible, as organic as if our great-great-grandparents from five generations ago picked it from their farm and made it themselves,” says Projcevski.

DNA Distillery has produced two varieties: Classic and Gold. The classic is clear, delicate on the palate and has a crisp finish, while the gold is a little richer, full-bodied and has a sweeter undertone.

Rakija is best enjoyed poured over ice or in a chilled glass and sipped slowly, advises Sutevski. She also encourages experimenting with it in cocktails, just as the crew at Marrickville’s Baba’s Place use it – try it as a rakija Sour, Marg or Cosmo.

The duo are already looking to create a rakija that uses pear for the next batch of what cousins ​​describe as “traditionally a grandmother’s drink”.

“Making rakija is seasonal – it’s not like vodka or gin, where you can make it all year round and you have no problems with the supply,” says Sutevski. “Mens… [rakija] since they were a traditional drink and something they made in the villages, they would make it based on what was available to them, so we’ll make another shiraz batch and make another gold, but we’re also trying some different flavors. ”

DNA Distillery ships to all of Australia.

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