When you think of Romania, you think of castles, doom and gloom and Dracula. But my recent visit to Romania has me thinking otherwise about the underrated country, including its native spirit, Tuica.
WHAT IS TUICA?
Tuica is a Romanian spirit made from fermented and distilled plums, which technically makes it a brandy. Romania is among the top plum producers in the world, and most of them are used to make tuica. While it may be a little known spirit to the rest of the world, Tuica is a source of pride for the Romanian people.
HOW IS TUICA MADE?
Traditionally, Tuica is prepared from early October until early December, usually finished before Christmas. Good tuica consists of only plums and yeast with no added sugar. Fermentation of the plums can last anywhere from 6-8 weeks, after which distillation takes place.
During distillation, the substance is heated underneath wood fires or charcoals so that the remains can be captured in a copper tube or brass still. The final product is a clear spirit that contains 28-60% alcohol by volume.
Usually, this process results in two grades of Tuica:
- very strong: distilled twice, generally a quarter of the production, and the first to come out of the still; about 55–60% alcohol by volume;
- normal: the last to come from the still; between 20–30% alcohol.
After distillation, tuica may be left to age between six months and ten years in oak aging barrels or it may be consumed immediately. Unlike raki or ouzo, tuica should never turn white or opaque when mixed with water.
TYPES OF TUICA
The term “tuica” comprises plum brandies and other fruit brandies. A specific nomenclature was created for tuica, comprising varieties such as old, selected, superior, etc.
A simple classification of types of țuică is:
- tuica = a generic term for an alcoholic beverage distilled from fruit
- pălincă = double-distilled plum brandy
- horincă = double-distilled plum brandy
- fățată = the strongest kind, double-distilled
- frunte = the very first țuică that comes out of the still during the distillation process
HOW TO DRINK TUICA
Tuica is usually served as an apertif, as it increases appetite. However, tuica is the go-to drink for all Romanian gatherings such as weddings, baptisms, hunting parties, harvest festivals, religious holidays, family reunions, wakes, and every day of the week.
I tried pălincă while in Romania and it was definitely a potent spirit! But with any spirit, I definitely recommend at least trying it when you’re visiting the native country. So if you’re ever in Romania, be sure to try one type of tuica!