6 Most Popular Romanian Alcoholic Drinks
In a video clip of only two minutes, the actor Aaron Paul, known for his role as Jesse Pinkman in the series “Breaking Bad”, tastes in an interview what we could very suggestively call “The Romanian Formula”. At the end of which he admiringly approves the quality of drinks such as wine brandy, afinata, vişinata, palinca and green walnut liqueur.
In other words, he leaves the impression that it is not about getting tipsy, it is about celebrating the moment, the pleasures of life and the Romanian flavors. And the fascinating part is that he is only scratching the surface, because the Romanian universe of liquid treasures is far bigger, and a complete journey will leave you surprised, but enchanted.
Beer has always been one of the most popular drinks in Romania, due to its freshness, moderate alcoholic strength, its potential to be paired with delicious gastronomic dishes, but also due to its role in maintaining endless conversations. Also, beer is the perfect drink to quench your thirst and to watch and debate political and sports events.
Romania ranks among the top countries in the world for beer consumption per capita.
However, after almost half a century of communism, Romanians lost the taste for real beer. But in the 2010s, the production of this drink enjoyed a revival. Besides production, also consumption of beer enjoyed a revival. Actually, Romania ranks among the top countries in the world for beer consumption per capita.
The quality of the water, the excellent terroir for the production of hops, the passion of the new producers, the appearance of foreign investors, but also the insatiable thirst of Romanians for quality beer led to the revival of beer production in Romania.
The most popular Romanian beer brands are Ursus, Ciuc, Timișoreana, Bergenbier (sounds German, but it’s actually a local brand), Nenea Iancu, and Silva.
Moreover, the appearance of artisanal beer producers such as Csíki Sör, Zăganu, Three Happy Brewers, Griviţa and Bârlog have outlined craft beer styles such as IPA, Porter, Stout, Pilsner and Pale Ale, which were initially received as curiosities that later became quality standards.
With over 2,000 years of wine-growing tradition, Romania is one of the important wine producers in Europe alongside France, Italy, Portugal, and Germany.
Although for about half a century the reputation of the wine producer was compromised due to the political system, recent history comes with a plethora of Romanian wines that collect gold medals in every reputable international wine competition.
The mention of viticulture in this area dates back to before the Roman occupation, and Romania is proud of exceptional local varieties, but also its perfect environment for varieties such as Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris.
One of the memorable local varieties is the famous Fetească Neagră (loosely translated as Black Maiden), which is distinguished by the unmistakable aroma of prunes, cherries and red forest fruits. It is a variety from which you can obtain remarkable red wines for their flavor and elegance, but also extremely fresh and exuberant rosé wines.
Red wines aged in oak barrels have an aging potential of at least 10 years and can develop a bouquet of prunes, dark chocolate, leather and smoked wood. The variety can be grown anywhere in Romania, but the place that can truly be called home is the Dealu Mare region, due to a terroir that is very similar to that of Bordeaux.
Another grape variety from the same family is Fetească Regală, a variety discovered about a century ago in the Transylvania region, very close to the city of Mediaş. Fetească Regală is a variety that produces dry, very fresh white wines with increased acidity and minerality, as well as sparkling or distilled wines. The predominant flavors are green apples, lime juice, lamiae peel and apricots.
The gallery of Romanian varieties is very impressive due to the diversity of aromatic expressions, which is why it would be a capital sin to avoid Grasă de Cotnari. It is almost a legend, with its reputation being strengthened by a multitude of rulers and boyars who have perpetuated its fame to this day.
Traditionally, Grasă de Cotnari is a variety producing aromatic white dessert wines in the style of Sauternes or Tokaji, which abound in aromas of honey, peaches, apricots, caramelized quince or almonds. Recently, extremely elegant dry white wines have been obtained from this variety, aromatic with increased acidity and a very pronounced mineral character.
3. Fruit-based Liqueurs
The liquid equivalent of the fruit dessert really cannot be missed out. On almost any occasion, Romanians are proud to bring out the vişinata (sour cherry liqueur), caisată (apricot liqueur), afinată (blueberry liqueur), cireşata (cherry liqueur) or the famous green walnut liqueur.
Vişinata is probably the most famous Romanian liqueur obtained from the maceration of sour cherries, sugar and alcohol. The product usually has an alcohol concentration between 15% and 30% abv., a dark ruby color, and very aromatic and fruity nose.
The taste is sweet, but refreshing, the sweetness of the sour cherry being counterbalanced by the acidity of the fruits. The finish is very persistent, sweet and sour, which makes sour cherry a perfect digestive drink.
Another example of a digestive drink is Samaro, a green walnut liqueur famous for its memorable taste. Created from green walnuts, honey and herbs, Samaro is a favorite of mixology lovers, as it can be combined with cranberry juice, tonic water, or energy drinks. In other words, it’s a proper local replica of Jägermeister.
Its color is dark brown with slight dark green reflections, it has a very expressive nose of green nuts and honey, and a slightly spicy lingering taste.
4. Țuică, Pălincă and Horincă (Romanian Hard Liquor)
A highly prized Romanian alcoholic drink is the Holy Trinity, composed of ţuică, pălincă and horincă.
These are probably the most famous Romanian alcoholic drinks abroad, but locally they are generally enjoyed by an older or rural crowd. Young or urban Romanians generally prefer beer or wine over traditional hard liquor drinks.
Ţuica by definition is produced exclusively from plums and according to tradition it is produced particularly in Oltenia, Wallachia and Moldavia, the regions in the south-west, south and east of the country. It has an alcohol concentration between 25% and 40% abv.
Palinca, on the other hand, is produced in the fairytale land of Transylvania, usually double or triple-distilled and created from several types of fruit (pears, apples, or cherries); in other words, it has a stronger alcohol concentration (between 40% and 60% abv.).
Then there is Horincă, which is a double or triple fruit distillate produced exclusively in Maramureş and in some parts of Oaş Country.
5. Vinars: Romanian Cognac
Vinars is the native version of cognac or brandy. While throughout history the name cognac was found on all the labels of the aged distillates obtained from wine by double distillation, this changed in the last century.
At the beginning of the 20th century, after the return of the vineyards once an invasion of phylloxera had been destroyed, on May 1st 1909, the production region of the famous French distillate was demarcated. When the name Cognac became protected and controlled in 1936, the name could not be used for drinks produced with similar technology but in a different grape production area.
Today, vinars is a local alcoholic drink aged in double-distilled oak with an alcoholic strength between 37.5% and 85% abv. Although most vinars is obtained from the distillation of wine, there are exceptions made with fermented apple, pear or plum juice. Among the most valuable examples of Romanian wineries are Brâncoveanu, Jad and Mioriţa.
Brâncoveanu XO is inspired by the name of the Romanian ruler, who was distinguished by a 25-year reign of peace, prosperity and the development of culture and arts in Wallachia. The XO (Extra Old) label was aged in oak barrels for a period of at least 7 years before bottling.
The color is amber with a slight shade of mahogany, and the smell is simply inviting, with notes of cedar, orange peel, coconut and vanilla. The taste is very complex, with caramel and almond aromas predominating. The finish is long, slightly spicy, round and balanced.
Jad XO 40 years is obtained from the assembly of several aged wine distillates in contact with oak wood for 40 years in barrels with a capacity of 450 and 600 liters. The color is reddish-brown with slight notes of green walnuts. The nose is very elegant, where the bouquet of humidor, dark chocolate and coffee predominates.
The taste is very rich, elegant, round and balanced where the aromas of vanilla, cinnamon and pepper predominate. The finish is long, persistent and abounds in memorable notes of green walnuts and candied orange peel.
6. Romanian Whisky
Today, Romania is one of the largest wine producers in the world. That’s why the local producer Alexandrion decided it’s time for a new challenge, time for a world premiere… the moment of creating a single malt whisky matured in Romanian wine barrels, called Carpathian Single Malt.
Carpathian Single Malt is not just a whisky, it’s not just a brand… it’s a new expression of refinement chiseled by Master Distiller Allan Anderson, with over 29 years of experience in the production of Scotch and Irish whiskey.
The malted barley is 100% produced in Romania, and the water is from the Subcarpathian hills. Carpathian Single Malt is distilled using the traditional Scottish method of double distillation, Kentucky Bourbon casks with finishing in wine and cognac casks. All these characteristics give the distillate an exceptional and unique character.
Romanian drinks are a statement for good taste, tradition, culture and also inspiration, which shapes our personality. But they also helps our international friends to understand our history and our particular personality.