In this article, you will delve into a captivating and mature subject about Albanian Wine and Spirits. Discover not only what to drink in Albania besides juice but also where you can not only enjoy a drink but also witness the fascinating process of beverage production. I will endeavor to cover all aspects of alcoholic beverages in Albania.
General aspects of alcoholic beverages in Albania:
Here are some key facts that paint a coherent picture of the country:
- Over 60% of the population in Albania practices Islam, though it is observed in a moderate form, the combination of alcohol and Islam is hardly ever encountered.
- Being seen drunk on the streets is considered shameful, not only for oneself but also for one’s family.
- The country boasts a remarkably developed coffee culture.
- Coffeehouses are abundant and operate from early morning till late evening.
- Albanians consume coffee up to eight times a day.
- Sometimes it seems that even in Turkey, the coffee culture is less pronounced than in Albania.
It’s intriguing to observe locals, during the evening sunset, sitting at café tables across the country, and not a single beer is seen on any table. Coffee is the preferred beverage in this setting.
Useful to know:Alcoholic beverages in Albania do exist, and they are readily available at affordable prices. However, public intoxication and alcoholism are scarce. Alcohol is primarily consumed at home with guests or during special occasions.
Now, let’s delve into what a tourist can drink in Albania with a satisfying dinner. By the way, you can read about Albanian cuisine and national dishes via this link.
Beer in Albania
I will compare it to European beers, be it from Belgium, Germany, or the Czech Republic. So, if their level of brewing and beer variety is a solid ten, Albanian local brewing struggles to receive even one point. Here’s why:
- The country has several large breweries, a minimum of four.
- But each one of them produces a simple lager beer, rather watery in taste.
- Only the Eldbar company started producing unfiltered beer from 2021.
Interesting to know:Albania does not offer beer varieties like dark, wheat, fruit lambics, ales, IPAs, APAs, etc. Only regular lager beer is available.
Imported German beers are available but at high prices. However, I would prefer to try an Albanian beer. There’s also the Amstel brewery in Albania, so they distribute that beer as well. But let’s focus on authentic Albanian brands:
- Korca – the number one beer in Albania.
- Tirana – the simplest among all, least favored by me.
- Eldbar – less common, and their Weiss Beer (unfiltered white beer) is the most delicious.
- A separate mention goes to Peja beer.
- This is a Kosovo beer, very popular in Albania. Since Kosovo is an unrecognized republic, they face significant challenges in exporting their products in general. Albania becomes a place where you can try many things from Kosovo.
Beer prices:A bottle or can of beer costs around (0.8 – 1 euro) in a store. In any bar, café, or restaurant, the price varies from 2 to 3 euros, depending on the establishment’s level of sophistication.
And lastly, about beer: if you truly love it, come to Korca. There’s a brewery located here, offering tours and tastings, with an excellent beer restaurant nearby. Everything you need to know about Korca, where to stay, and what to see.
Rakia in Albania
Anyone who has ever been to the Balkans has tasted rakia – the quintessential drink of the region. In every Balkan country, it is considered the paramount alcoholic beverage, and Albania is no exception.
A little background for those unfamiliar with the terminology:
- Rakia is a potent alcoholic drink, usually with an alcohol content of 38-45%.
- It is made from fermented fruit mash, with the most common varieties being plum and grape. Other fruits like pear, cherry, quince, apple, and blackberry can also be used – the possibilities are endless.
- It’s worth noting that if rakia is made from plums, it is known as “slivovitz.”
- In Albania, “slivovitz” is less popular than in neighboring countries. Here, around 80% of rakia is made from grapes.
- Every family in Albania makes its own rakia. You’ll have the opportunity to savor homemade rakia and experience Albanian hospitality if you opt for accommodation in a guesthouse.
Something to keep in mind:Commercial rakia is comparable to vodka, while homemade rakia resembles moonshine. While rakia is not my personal preference in any Balkan country, not just in Albania, due to its strong smell and an alcohol content of over 40 degrees, I acknowledge that it may not be to everyone’s liking.
Rakia in Albania- the most budget-friendly alcoholic option. A 0.5-liter bottle can be purchased for as low as 3.5 euros. If you’re not a fan and don’t need an entire bottle, check out the article with tourist tips: what to bring to Albania, to increase your chances of being offered rakia.
Skanderbeg Brandy is a unique Albanian phenomenon and a beverage produced solely in Albania. Here are a few facts about this drink:
- Skanderbeg is a national hero and leader of the Albanian rebellion during the Ottoman Empire’s reign. His name not only adorns this brandy but also streets, restaurants, and more.
- The brandy’s alcohol content is 38%.
- There seems to be only one distillery in the country, but the variety of labels, bottles, and gift sets is countless.
- This is because in Albania, any entrepreneur can buy a tank of this brandy from the distillery and bottle it with their own label.
- Interestingly, even though this might sound surprising, there is no underground alcohol in the country, and no one is poisoning themselves or going blind from consumption. Albanians do not engage in reckless behavior.
- If you want Skanderbeg Brandy straight from the distillery, you can find it in a regular store, packaged with a simple label.
- Need a gift? Head to a souvenir shop, and you’ll find an array of gift sets on a whole shelf.
Interesting to know:Albanians claim that it is indeed cognac. However, the French prohibit them from using the word “cognac,” as it’s their term for beverages from their region. Therefore, if you see “brandy” on the bottle, it means it’s factory-bottled, as the distillery complies with all trademark requirements. But if the bottle says “cognac,” it means a local “entrepreneur” who “didn’t care” about protecting the name, trademark, and other capitalist ambitions bottled it.
Now you know how to distinguish between factory and homemade versions :). But, as I mentioned before, you can enjoy either of them.
Let me begin by saying that while I may understand something about beer and even rakia and brandy, wine is not my forte. Well, I can drink it, but I can’t discern its bouquet or aftertaste. I can’t even tell the difference between wine from a bottle and wine from a tetra pack. Hence, everything that follows is information from an amateur and my personal opinion 🙂
Many are unaware and surprised, but Albania is home to numerous wineries that produce good wine (so they say). Here are some facts about Albanian wine.
- The most prominent wine region in the country is Berat.
- By the way, there’s one of the most impressive private wineries here. But you can read about that in the article about Berat and what to see there.
- They produce both red and white wines. Detailed information about grape varieties, history, and other related aspects is wonderfully presented on Wikipedia, so I won’t repeat it here.
Important to know:In Albania, every store sells Vranac red wine. Vranac is a grape variety, and the wine made from it is produced in every Balkan country. It is the most popular wine, for example, in Serbia. A considerable portion of the Vranac sold in Albania is actually from Kosovo or Montenegro. If you want genuine Albanian Vranac, carefully read the labels.
In the photo below are four bottles of authentic Albanian wine, produced solely in central Albania, in the vineyards near Berat, on the slopes of mountains at an altitude of 600 meters. The prices for Albanian wine start at 6-7 euros per bottle.
By the way, they make an excellent gift to bring home for friends and colleagues.
Useful to know:In the menu of any eatery, wine is always available. The price is around 1000 lek per bottle or liter (approximately 8 euros) throughout the country. It is usually homemade wine, crafted by the owners themselves. Consult the waiter and give it a try – it can be remarkably enjoyable.
What is Fernet?
Many online sources often mention that you must bring Albanian Fernet as a souvenir. Here’s the thing – you’re being misled 🙂 Fernet is a strong herbal liqueur-bitter. “Bitter” means bitter in taste. The truth is, it’s purely an Italian drink. Its alcohol content ranges from 38% to 45%. Taste-wise, it vaguely reminds me of Jägermeister.
Now, let me explain about Fernet in Albania:
- 70-80% of this drink found in Albanian stores is actually produced in Italy. So, if you want to find authentic Albanian Fernet, read the labels.
- In Albania, there are distilleries that produce this alcoholic beverage for Italy. Consequently, these bottles are labeled “Made in Albania.” It makes sense that these bottles are sold in Albanian stores.
- This is how the misconception arose that Fernet is an Albanian drink.
- In reality, it is not. In Albania, many items are produced for the Italian market. They even manufacture clothing for Italian fashion houses, as it’s cheaper and easier to transport.
Useful to know:In conclusion, Fernet in Albania is available, you can buy it, but it is by no means an Albanian drink.
In conclusion: you won’t stay sober in this country for sure. Albanian wine will surprise many with their quality and affordability. The country offers alcoholic beverages for those who prefer stronger drinks as well as for those who enjoy a cold beer from lunchtime.
Resources to help you plan your dream trip to Albania
- Flights at the best prices with juicy discounts
- Car rental in Albania (cheaper – only by bus):
- Hotels and apartments throughout the country: Booking
- Tours, excursions and activities (including extreme ones):
- Comprehensive travel insurance: EKTA
- eSIM virtual sim card in Albania
- Taxi and transfers: Intui.Travel