Making a new foreign friend is always something special. There is a moment in life when everybody knows for certain that they have made a new friend, though it is different for each person. Finding common interests, laughing at the same type of jokes, or simply finding the beauty in someone’s quirks; all of these factors can lead to a promising friendship. Whenever I think about the way I met my foreign friends, it encompasses those factors and something more. That something is sharing a special type of Romanian drink with them. The strong spirit drink called “ţuică” is on many occasions the binding element between people, the drink that creates friendships. It’s a great conversation starter after you’ve had a sip of it, and it usually leads to ordering a few more.
If you’d ask Romanians what they think is an item found in every household in Romania, the majority’s answer would probably be the strong drink, called ţuică. Serving ţuică is our way of welcoming strangers into our homes and our country. It is used to celebrate important events in our lives and to remember those we have lost. When Romanians wish to impress someone, they grab their strongest type of ţuică, which can have up to 55–60% alcohol and share a glass with those who pass their thresholds.
Romanians have many traditions, and one of the most cherished ones is sharing a meal with friends and family. If it's true that drinking water before a meal decreases one’s appetite, ţuică does the opposite. By drinking ţuică, the hosts assure that no food will be left on the table and that everyone will enjoy their time.
The real, local ţuică connoisseurs know the difference between ţuică, which is made only out of distilled plums and “pălincă”, made out of other distilled fruit, like apples or pears. They also know the best places where this Romanian drink can be found and enjoyed. Even though ţuică has become mainstream and can be found in every big supermarket, there are distilleries where this drink has become a form of art.
There is a unique 100-year-old distillery in northwestern Romania, where visitors can experience the entire process of making ţuică. The distillery is called Atelierele Zetea, and can be found in the village of Medieşu Aurit. The Zetea family has always owned the business, passing on the recipes and techniques from father to son. They specialize in both ţuică and pălincă, keeping the traditions of their ancestors alive.
Another well-known Romanian distillery is Distileriile Bran. Located near the city of Satu Mare, in northwestern Romania, this distillery hosts many events, trying to make ţuică appealing also to the younger generations of adults. They reinvent cocktails with ţuică bases and are present even at some festivals with their van, promoting their unique mix of traditional and modern drinks. Their site has all their upcoming events listed, and also names of the festivals which they will attend. If you’ve had classical ţuică and you now want to try it with a twist, then this is the place for you.
No matter where the road takes you in Romania, be sure that ţuică, a Romanian drink that creates friendships, will always be somewhere nearby. One can find it at Romania's Black Sea party hub - Vama Veche, at Bucharest’s oldest brewery: Caru cu Bere and even at Manuc's Inn, the epicenter of hospitality in Bucharest. If Romanians offer you this beverage, I guarantee it involves having an exciting bonding experience with them. Be a part of it all and take some ţuică back home with you to share with other soon-to-be friends.
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