The Magnificent Slivovitz – plum brandy

The Magnificent Slivovitz – plum brandy 1

The Magnificent Slivovitz – plum brandy

and 11 more even better types of brandy made in Serbia

Welcome to my blog for Serbian language learners. It contains free Serbian lessons and articles about Serbia and its lifestyle. To read more about me, visit my presentation page. For frequent updates, follow me on Facebook or Instagram.

Magdalena Petrović Jelić

In September, every village and town in Serbia has the pungent aroma of fermented fruits. When it tickles your nose, follow the scent. You’ll find a brewing cauldron that produces a magic potion: slivovitz, šljivovica (plum brandy), or another type of fruit brandy, rakija.

Fruit brandy production is a practice typical not only for Serbia, but also for the whole of the Balkans, and Europe. Many households in Serbia produce brandy for their own needs. Unlike the American moonshine production, it’s not illegal. However, it is illegal to sell your homemade brandy, domaća rakija.


How to make Slivovitz – šljivovica

The most produced type of brandy in Serbia is slivovitz or plum brandy. Šljivovica is a registered trademark today and the national drink of Serbia. By late August, we have collected ripe plums and put them in a big barrel to ferment, after splitting them in halves and removing the kernels, koštice. (It’s important to remove them, as an accidentally broken kernel could spoil the flavor of your slivovitz.) This mixture of ripe fermenting fruit is called komina. When it’s well fermented, after about two weeks, all sugar from the plums has turned into alcohol.

That’s the moment to invite our friends over for an evening beside the cauldron, kazan. We sit around, drink the previous years’ production, talk and stoke the fire. As the fermented mass boils, its steam passes through a metal pipe. There it cools down to become liquid again and drips in a barrel, ready to cheer us up.

That’s how we make brandy: by boiling and distilling fruit. But we don’t actually say that we ‘boil’ it (kuvati, kuvamo). Rather, the expression is ‘to bake’ (peći, pečemo). We say, “Dođite sutra, pečemo rakiju” (Come tomorrow, we’re baking brandy).

The distillation process first produces the so-called “soft brandy”, meka rakija. We must distill it once more if we want to get the “hot brandy”, ljuta rakija. That’s why it’s called “double-baked”: prepečenica.


The quality of rakija – homemade brandy

Since rakija is a matter of your domaćin’s pride, he’ll offer one of the finest quality. The soft brandy is used during winter to make šumadijski čaj (tea of Šumadija, central Serbian region). That’s basically caramelized sugar boiled in rakija – an excellent drink that will warm you up and get your blood flowing, but also a cure that will chase away the flu.

The drink is transparent and without color when produced. Afterwards, it is stored in wooden barrels, or with a piece of wood inside. And the color the slivovitz will finally get depends on the type of wood.

The rule is to let the brandy “rest”. The older it gets, the better it gets. With time, it loses sharpness and the fruit flavor gets stronger.  That’s why we’ll save rakija from important family events (the birth of your child, your wedding, graduation etc.) to taste it decades later, as a special treat for another important event. For example, you can store a bottle of rakija from the year your child was born, only to open it when your child turns 18.


Slivovitz and 11 more types of Serbian brandy

Plums, šljive, are the most common fruit from which we produce rakija . But the same process can be applied to any kind of fruit. And there are other fruit brandies that are actually even more appreciated and more expensive than the slivovitz. Just like šljivovica was named after šljiva, plum in Serbian, the name of other fruit brandies come from the name for the fruits they’re made from.


Any fruit can be used to make rakija. Here’s a list of the most common types made in Serbia, for your reference:


  1. Komovica – the name comes from komina (see above), as it’s made from the fermented grape pomace left over after making wine. This rakija is strongly appreciated, but not as a drink: it’s a medicine.
  2. Loza (grapevine) or lozovača – made from grapes directly, without extracting wine. It’s very popular in Montenegro.
  3. Kajsija (apricot) or kajsijevača
  4. Dunja (quince) or dunjevača
  5. Kruška or viljamovka (pear or William’s pear)

Apricot, quince and pear brandy are usually never double baked. Otherwise, they would lose the fine fruit fragrance they have. Occasionally, a fresh fruit is added to the barrel to improve flavor.


A good rakija is often altered with different ingredients and named after them:

6. Travarica – slivovitz with herbs

7. Kleka or klekovača – slivovitz with juniper berries


Then there are liqueurs, likeri – sweet, but still strong drinks, usually consumed in small elegant glasses by women.

8. Medovača – honey brandy

9. Orahovača – walnut brandy

10. Višnjevača – cherry brandy

11. Pelinkovac – liqueur made with pelin, wormwood or artemisia absinthium: yes, the same plant that is used to make Absinth.


My favorite kind of brandy

If you ask which rakija is the best, people will often answer “domaća” (home made). To my taste, apricot and quince rakija are a class above slivovitz. When made by skillful hands, they have a very nice fruit aroma. They’re also more expensive – but they’re worth it.

How to drink rakija

Rakija is never served in big glasses. Rather, we drink it from the smallest shot glasses, less than two inches tall, rakijska čašica. Traditionally, it’s served in a small pear-like glass, like the one in the picture above, taken in my back yard, or the one below, taken in a random neighborhood in Belgrade. It’s called čokanj, fićok, fraklić or unuče – many names for a little glass that is believed to make rakija taste its best.

The Magnificent Slivovitz – plum brandy 2

A Saturday morning: Coffee, newspapers and brandy

In the middle of writing this article, I was on a short business trip in Belgrade. It was an early August morning: the air was already warm, but traces of a fresh breeze offered some relief. Having coffee at a secluded bar that played soft jazz in one of the Slavija’s quiet neighborhoods, I saw two men enjoying themselves silently. Each one of them was reading newspapers with a shot of rakija, as peaceful as their sleeping dogs. They kindly agreed to be featured in my blog post. “If it’s about rakija”, the one with the beard said, “we’re sure in!”

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The Magnificent Slivovitz – plum brandy 3

Greeks and Serbs: What We Have in Common

Greeks and Serbs: What We Have in Common 4

What Greeks and Serbs have in common

Welcome to my blog for Serbian language learners. It contains free Serbian lessons and articles about Serbia and its lifestyle. To read more about me, visit my presentation page. For frequent updates, follow me on Facebook or Instagram.

Magdalena Petrović Jelić

As many people from Serbia, I love Greece and I’ve visited this beautiful country many times. That’s why I decided to learn Greek  in the first place – I wanted to talk to the people when I go there.

It is often said that Greeks and Serbs are brothers and friendly nations. Our ties are probably older than the Byzantine period, when we were strongly connected from the top. Greek rulers married Serbian princesses and vice versa.

But I’m not here to talk about history or politics.

Greeks and Serbs also have a similar sense of hospitality and love for good company, food and drink. Our cuisines are similar: they share habits from the Middle East and Mediterranean influences. But they are also quite different: the Greek being more flavored and seasoned, Serbian being more restrictive with the spices.

For example, the famous horiatiki (country salad, as the Greeks call it, or the Greek salad, as we call it) has its counterpart in Serbia: the so-called “šopska salata” (also “srpska salata” in some restaurants). Basic ingredients are the same: tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and cheese. In Serbia we traditionally add sunflower seed oil. In Greece they add olive oil, of course, olives and basil.

But I’m not here to talk about food, either.

What Greeks and Serbs have in common in language

There are many things, but here I’ll focus on three lovely expressions. In the video below I reveal traditional figures of speech, or magic formulas, that will make you sound like a native, and that are used by Greeks and Serbs alike.

If you use these formulaic expressions, that will definitely make you sound naturally Serbian, and you will make the Serbs smile and like you even more.

Also, I’m talking Greek to give you the atmosphere (with subtitles in English). 

Watch the video in Greek or scroll down to read the English translation and explanations.



Hello and welcome to the Natural Serbian Channel!

Ja sam Magdalena and today I want to talk to you in Greek because I want to tell you about several things that people in Greece and Serbia have in common.

We’re talking about vocabulary, tradition and things like that.


If you’ve seen my previous video, you’ve learned that we in Serbia also use the „βρε“, we say bre,

and we believe that it is very much Serbian.


We also use the more and mori and correctly, we use it very correctly.

/Mori (μορή) only for women, in complience with the Greek grammar./


Also, the ajde or hajde like in Greece, it’s the same.

It’s only that we in Serbia we use hajde like Greek άντε and έλα, both are hajde


The other things, what are they? Do you know? Or you don’t? Write me about that.

I will tell you what I’ve noticed.


I won’t tell you about many terms in the medicine that we use, like:

pedijatar, psihijatar, ginekolog, stomatolog and so on.

(pediatrician, psychiatrist, gynecologist, dentist)

There are plenty of them and all the world uses them, not only in Serbia.


Neither will I talk about many Turkish words that we have in common, for example:

το δέρτι dert

το μεράκι merak.

(These are words for special feelings only the Balkans and Middle East will understand completely, try and google them 🙂 )


What I find interesting is something from the tradition.

It’s what I told you in the beginning, I told you:

«Καλώς ορίσατε» (Welcome)


And what will you answer to that? You will say:

«Καλώς σε βρίκαμε» (May we find you well)


The same formula exists in Serbia as well.

And from all the languages that I’ve learned, I haven’t seen that anywhere,

only in the Greek and the Serbian language.


In Serbian we say: „Dobro došao“ – „Βolje vas našao“, for masculine.

/Welcome! – May I find you even better, in even better situation than I’m in. Basically, you wish me well, and I wish you even better./

For the femenine gender, it’s different: „Dobro došla“ – „Bolje vas našla“.

All right? That’s in the singular. And in the plural, we have:

„Dobro došli“ – „Bolje vas našli“.

(Welcome! May we find you even better.)


It’s very nice, very traditional to say this.

Dobro došao – Bolje vas našao (masculine gender)

Dobro došli – Bolje vas našli (plural) 

Dobro došla – Bolje vas našla (femenine gender)


And today I’ll tell you about one more formula.

It’s the… what do we say for Easter in Greece?

We say:

«Χριστός ανέστη!» (Christ resurrected)

And what do we answer?

«Αληθώς ανέστη.» (He truly did resurrected)

Isn’t it so?

What do we say in Serbia? We say: „Hristos voskrese“ and we answer „Vaistinu voskrese“.

In the Greek language we use katharevousa (καθαρεύουσα)

to say this, and in the Serbian language we use something

that is like katharevousa in the Serbian language.

And these are the words that we don’t use generally, only in this formula do we use them:

Hristos voskrese! – Vaistinu voskrese!


We go even further, and for Christmas we say something  similar:

Hristos se rodi! – Vaistinu se rodi! (Chirst is born – He truly is born)


All right? These are the things that I wanted to tell you today and I hope that you liked it.

Maybe you knew it, did you know that? Or didn’t you? I’m interested to learn that.

Leave comments so that we see how many of you are watching us from Greece.

OK? Share as well, it goes without saying, and help me spread the word about the Natural Serbian.

How could we put it? Fisika? Servikos? Serviki? Natural Serbian language. Isn’t it so? Naturally Serbian!

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Serbian Lifestyle: Why learning about it really matters

Serbian Lifestyle: Why learning about it really matters 5

Why learning about Serbian lifestyle really matters

Welcome to my blog for Serbian language learners. It contains free Serbian lessons and articles about Serbia and its lifestyle. To read more about me, visit my presentation page. For frequent updates, follow me on Facebook or Instagram.

Magdalena Petrović Jelić

Have you ever been in a situation where you simply didn’t know how to react or how to answer to a local in Serbia? That’s why learning about Serbian lifestyle is really important when learning Serbian language.

One of the crucial elements of the Serbian lifestyle is the hospitality ritual. There are many formulas and expected behaviors for guests and hosts in Serbia. On this page you can learn about expected gifts that you can bring as a guest to a Serbian host.

But, do you know what to do when your Serbian hosts put this in front of you?

Serbian Lifestyle: Why learning about it really matters 6

 An anecdote about an Englishman eating “slatko”

This lovely anecdote about an Englishman eating “slatko” in Belgrade is fun. But it also illustrates how important it is to learn about culture and customs alongside with the Serbian language.

The Serbian lifestyle is something that might confuse you, if you don’t understand it, or that will make you love the language even more.

Watch the video to learn more!

An Englishman and a Serbian grandma

/Transcript of the video/

Do you know what to do when your Serbian hosts put this in front of you?

Let me tell you an anecdote. There was this very polite Englishman that came to visit Serbia. He knew a little Serbian from his textbook and could manage a basic conversation, but he knew almost nothing about Serbian everyday life and customs.

Back then there were no Natural Serbian courses. Only did he know that one must eat and drink what’s offered in order not to offend the hosts.

So he rents an apartment from an old lady, and when he visits her to pay the rent, she insists that he comes in na čašicu razgovora, for a small talk, that’s so typical.

Now, being curious, he accepts the invitation and comes in. What happens next is that she puts this (a jar and a teaspoon) on the table in front of him and goes to the kitchen to make some coffee.

And he takes one mouthful.

Oh my god! This tastes sooo good!

And he takes another mouthful, and another, and he keeps eating…

When the lady’s back from the kitchen with their coffee, he had already eaten like a half of the jar.

Afterwards, he was sick and she was offended.


So do you know precisely what to do if your hosts put this (a jar and a teaspoon) in front of you?


Serbian Courses are hosting this free course called Natural Serbian.

It is the only course that teaches you real-life Serbian expressions and customs!

Do you want to find out the answer about slatko? (ovo je slatko od smokava)

Firstly, please share this with your friends and help me spread the word about the Natural Serbian course (Lajkujte i šerujte, hvala puno!), and then go to this page where I’ll show you:

  • what exactly you should do with slatko,
  • how to politely say NO and stop overeating without offending anybody, and
  • how to learn other little tricks that will help you act smart in Serbia, impress your Serbian friends, and sound naturally Serbian!