Serbian Hot Brandy (Vruca Rakija)

Serbian hot brandy recipe

The Spruce / Zorica Lakonic

  • Total: 20 mins
  • Prep: 0 mins
  • Cook: 20 mins
  • Servings: 10 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
50 Calories
0g Fat
13g Carbs
0g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 10
Amount per serving
Calories 50
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 2mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 13g 5%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Protein 0g
Calcium 9mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Serbian Christmas Eve or badnje vece wouldn't be the same without an alcoholic drink known as vruca rakija (where vruca means "hot" and rakija means "brandy"), often referred to simply as rakija (rrah-kee-yah) or rakia

Rakija is typically as clear as water and drunk at room temperature or cold but, when simmered with caramelized sugar and water to become a potent hot drink (vruca rakija) for Christmas Eve, it develops an amber color. 

Every family and church group has its closely guarded recipe. After the traditional Christmas Eve vespers service and Yule log or badnjak burning, a great meatless meal is enjoyed by the faithful with a sip of vruca rakija. Here is a larger photo of St. Sava church (Merrillville, Ind.) members cooking up a batch of vruca rakija.

Rakija is a powerful brandy made from the distillation of almost any fermented fruit each with its own specific rakija name. Slivovica (plum rakija) is the most popular and the strongest and is used to make vruca rakija. But you can find apricot, peach, grape, fig, quince and even juniper. Each has its own flavor that can be subtle or in your face.

Rakija is to South Slavs as vodka is to Poles or Russians. It’s especially popular in Serbia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Montenegro, and it's creeping its way into the hearts of non-Slavic nations like Romania, Albania, and others.

This powerful drink is crystal clear but when combined with caramelized sugar and water for Christmas Eve, it takes on a golden amber color. It definitely warms a person from the toes up.

The best rakija is homemade. Serbians take great pride in making their own and, we can attest, it's far superior to bottled rakija which often contains preservatives. If you want to try the real thing, get your hands on a batch of homemade hooch.

The alcohol content is typically 50% to 80% but many like to produce it as high as 90% 

After a night of drinking rakija or other potent potables, many Serbians swear by a strong cup of Turkish coffee. But burek and a cold glass of kefir also are popular cures. Here is more about Eastern European hangover cures


  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups slivovitz (plum brandy)
  • 3 cups water

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for Serbian hot brandy
    The Spruce / Zorica Lakonic
  2. In a medium, heavy-bottomed stainless-steel pot, sprinkle in the sugar. Allow the sugar to melt, stirring occasionally, until it is completely liquid and a nice brown color, watching it constantly.

    The Spruce / Zorica Lakonic
  3. When brown and caramelized, but not burned, immediately remove from heat and carefully add the slivovitz and water.

    The Spruce / Zorica Lakonic
  4. Return to heat, stirring constantly, until it comes to a boil and the sugar is completely melted.

    Return to heat
    The Spruce / Zorica Lakonic
  5. Be careful that this does not boil over. It requires constant watching.

  6. Serve hot and enjoy!

    Serve hot
    The Spruce / Zorica Lakonic