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The distillation of time and place

The Forager

Fruit and vegetable wholesalers Jon and Con Lioulios have just released two varieties of rakia distilled using a recipe their father brought from Macedonia 50 years ago.

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Rakia is an Eastern European style of fruit brandy that the Lioulios brothers’ father, “Pando”, used to make.

“We grew up drinking it in shots with a side dish of pickled vegetables and cured meats,” explains Jon.

Jon and Con run the family business, Quality Lines, a supplier of fresh fruit and vegetables to supermarkets and retail stores that Pando started as a market garden.

“It was Dad’s dream to get the distillation business up and running,” Jon says.

“We have spent the last six to seven years trying to get licensing and approvals, which took quite a bit of time and paperwork, but sadly Dad passed away two years ago.”

The brothers have just released a White Rakia and a Gold Rakia under the 36 Short label. While many distillers buy in a wine spirit to distill product from, the Lioulioses are distilling their own from McLaren Vale Shiraz grapes.


36 Short White Rakia and 36 Short Gold Rakia. Photo: supplied

36 Short Rakias are produced in a similar style to schnapps in that the alcohol spirit is distilled from fruit to which flavouring ingredients are added before a further distillation. They are also not over-sweetened.

University of Adelaide Associate Professor Graham Jones, who has a research interest in the production of consumable spirits, assisted Con and Jon with the distillation process.

The 36 Short White Rakia is clear in colour with an aniseed flavour similar to Sambuca, but more fiery, less sweet and less viscous.

The 36 Short Gold Rakia is an aged version which is whisky-coloured with a sweeter, spicier, more herbaceous flavour – it’s the closest thing we’ve ever tasted to Hierbas, an aniseed and herb digestif from Spain’s Balearic Islands.


Con and Jon Lioulios sharing a glass of 36 Short Gold Rakia. Photo: supplied

Why the “36 Short” name? “We wanted to dedicate the rakia to Dad, but not many people know the name ‘Pando’,” explains Jon.

“Dad and his brothers were short and we used to laugh at the size of his suit – everyone in his family were all 36 Short [suit size] – so we thought it was a good name to give the Rakia.”

How do you drink it? “You can drink it in shots or use it to make cocktails, just as you would gin or vodka,” says Jon. “A simple cocktail is to mix it with ruby-red orange, some ice and some tonic water.”


36 Short White Rakia with ruby red orange and tonic water. Photo: supplied

36 Short Rakia is sold in 500ml bottles (RRP $70) at select bottle shops and poured at bars including Udaberri, Mr Good Bar and Thrift Shop.


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