Making Rakomelo on Crete

On a recent trip around Crete with www.gocrete.net we discovered lots of new Crete treats including petimezi and, here, rakomelo.

Rakomelo: A Popular Souvenir

What is Rakomelo?

If you know any Greek you can figure out that rakomelo combines raki with meli: raki and honey. So it's a sweet alcoholic drink, flavoured with spices, particularly cinnamon. Everyone has a slightly different recipe, and it's made on several Aegean islands, on the Greek mainland and also on Crete.

We wanted to learn more about rakomelo, so our guide Isidoros from www.GoCrete.net tracked down Jorgos Kourmoulis. Jorgos makes rakomelo for his family and friends but his recipe is so good that a company in Canada wants him to go into commercial production to make rakomelo for them.

Jorgos Kourmoulis

We met Jorgos at his sister Niki's café, the Mylos Café, in the village of Agouseliana, about a half-hour south of Rethymnon. It was early evening and we were on our way to Agiroupoli, where we were going to spend the night. This being Crete, Jorgos of course poured us some raki to clink glasses, and Isi translated as Jorgos shared his rakomelo secrets.

'First,' he said, 'you have to find good quality raki.' The raki we were drinking was super-smooth so it's obvious Jorgos had found a good source.

'After the first distillation you put the raki in the same pot and you add the dried herbs. During the second distillation the herbs give all the extracts. Before you use the herbs they have to be dried in a shady and well-ventilated place, not in direct sun. But they have to be cut at the right moment, when they have the flowers. Each herb is collected at a different time, from early June to early September. Another important thing is that when you cut the herbs the moon has to be in the growing stage, waxing, because then all the important elements are in the herb, not in the roots.'


Rakomelo Recipe

Jorgos uses a recipe from Agouseliana, which calls for various herbs that Jorgo picks in the mountains around They include thyme, salvia, a kind of mint (mentha pulegium or pennyroyal) and another kind of thyme (thymus capitatus). After the second distillation he stops the procedure when the raki is about 40%ABV and is still warm, but not hot, and this is the time to add the honey, which is mainly thyme honey.

'If it's not warm the honey won't mix,' he says, 'and if it's too hot you lose the flavour of the honey.'

Ceylon Cinnamon

It's also now that another vital ingredient is added, Ceylon cinnamon, which also helps to give the drink its brandy-like colour. Jorgos explains that Ceylon cinnamon is eight times more expensive than regular cinnamon, but it's vital to get the best quality. Some makers use cheap cinnamon to cut costs, and some even use cinnamon flavouring, but Jorgos wants the best rakomelo he can produce. With the addition of the cinnamon stick and honey, Jorgos leaves the mix for 20-30 days. Then when it's clear it's ready to bottle.

'It's a superfood!' he tells us. 'The grannies of the village would drink a glass every morning and they live for many years. They also have a glass when they come back from working in the fields, especially when they're wet and they're protected from the cold. French scientific research that has been done over about eight years says that thyme can kill bacteria from the body within one minute, especially for deep diseases of the lung and bronchitis.'

Greek Distilling Regulations

At the moment Greek regulations mean that Jorgos can only produce 100 kilos for family and friends before it's regarded as a commercial production and all kinds of rules and expenses come into play.

'Two years ago,' he explains, 'the Greek state changed the law about distillation and made it very strict and very expensive. If you want to be legal and sell it then you must have a custom licence. To get the licence you need the proper storage space, and you need to have a special machine so you can print on the bottle which cannot be removed. The cost of this machine and the storage and the licence is about 100,000 euros. This is just to start. Then you have to pay 11 euros per litre in taxes per 100% alcohol. The final proof of the rakomelo is 29-30% ABV so the tax is about €3 per litre.'

The Perfect Recipe!

Jorgos has spent two years perfecting his recipe, but his perfectionism may be paying off. He sent samples of his drink to a company in Canada that were interested in it, and someone is coming to Athens to discuss it.

'But they want 200,000 litres,' Jorgos says, which is quite a step up from 100 kilos. 'Imagine how much honey you would need! The mountains are full of herbs, and I can get the honey and the raki. The problem is the storage rooms and the cost.'

Despite the hurdles, Jorgos is looking at how to raise the money to go into commercial production.

'In a society that is getting poorer and poorer,' he says, 'two things flourish: gambling and alcohol. In the last few years rakomelo is one of the top choices for tourists to buy.'

He clinks our raki glasses again.

'Yammas! The most important thing is to love what you're doing!'

If you want to try some of Jorgos's rakomelo, you'll find the Mylos Café next to the war memorial in the village of Agouseliana.

Greece Travel Secrets would like to thank www.gocrete.net for arranging the meeting as an additional stop on one of their tours of Crete.

You might like these other Crete pages...

  • Eco-Tourism Accommodation on Crete

    The Dalabelos Estate offers luxury eco-tourism accommodation on Crete in the hills near Rethymnon with its own farm, vineyard and olive groves.

  • Goules Taverna Crete

    The Goules Taverna in Goulediana, south of Rethymnon, has been called one of the best tavernas on Crete and Greece Travel Secrets recently visited them.

  • Manousakis Wine Tasting

    We visit and tour the Manousakis Winery on Crete with a wine-tasting and a chance to buy their tsikoudia, sea salt, olive oil and other goodies.

  • The Herb Man of Kouses

    Greece Travel Secrets visits the Cretan Botano herbs and spices shop near Matala in southern Crete in search of the herb man of Kouses.

  • Art Courses on Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets visits Visual Arts Crete who offer accommodation and run art courses at their home and studio in the village of Kastellos near Rethymnon.

  • Chania, in Western Crete

    Chania is the main city in Western Crete with a lovely setting and a beautiful harbour as well as several museums.

  • Crete

    Crete (Kriti) is the largest Greek island and its main attractions include the Minoan Palace of Knossos, the Samarian Gorge, Chania and Rethymnon.

  • Crete Olive Oil Tour

    For a Crete olive oil tour Greece Travel Secrets visits Biolea, one of the few olive oil factories on Crete that you can visit.

  • Crete Festivals and Events

    Crete festivals and events include Carnival Easter, Whitsun, Christmas, many other religious feast days and public holidays.

  • Cretan Writers and Artists

    The most famous Cretan writers and artists include the painter El Greco and the author of Zorba the Greek, Nikos Kazantzakis.

  • Best Things to Do on Crete

    The best things to do on Crete and top things to see include the Samaria Gorge, the Minoan Palaces at Knossos and Phaistos, the towns of Chania and Rethymnon.

  • Best Crete Hotels

    The best Crete hotels include 5-star luxury hotels, historic and romantic Venetian palaces, and several hotels in Hania and Iraklion.

  • Best Beaches on Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets chooses ten of the best beaches on Crete including the beautiful beaches at Vai and Elafonisi.

  • Battle of Crete

    The Battle of Crete during World War 2 inspired several books and took place with an airborne invasion over Maleme on the north coast of the island.

  • Arkadi Monastery

    Visiting the Arkadi Monastery near Rethymnon is one of the best things to do on Crete.

  • Airbnb near Chania

    This Airbnb in the quiet village of Malaxa, a 30-minute drive into the hills above Chania, is a peaceful retreat with a delightful and thoughtful artist owner, with wonderful views and amenities.

  • Agios Nikolaos

    Agios Nikolaos is a pretty and popular town on the north coast of Crete and this page on Greece Travel Secrets covers its history, museums and beaches.

  • Margarites

    Margarites is known on Crete for its pottery, with ceramics shops and workshops lining the streets of this charming small town not far from Rethymnon.

  • Zacharioudakis Winery

    Greece Travel Secrets visits the Zacharioudakis Winery near Ancient Gortina in southern Crete, and does a vineyard tour arranged by our guide from Go Crete.

  • Touring the Lyrarakis Winery on Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets tours the Lyrarakis Winery on Crete and learns about Crete grape varieties such as plyto, dafni, vidiano, vilana, mandilari and kotsifali.

  • The Icon Painter

    Icon painting is a centuries-old tradition in Crete and the rest of Greece, and Greece Travel Secrets meets a modern-day icon painter in Elounda on Crete.

  • The Cretan Diet

    Studies have shown the Cretan Diet as one of the healthiest in the world, involving lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, fresh fish, and moderate amounts of wine.

  • Stilianou Winery near Knossos

    The Stilianou Winery near Knossos on Crete uses only Cretan grape varieties, with every bottle numbered, and aims for quality rather than quantity.

  • The Snails House on Crete

    The Snails House in Plouti near Phaistos in southern Crete serves the Cretan delicacy of snails, cooked in several different ways.

  • Sir Arthur Evans, archaeologist at Knossos on Crete

    Sir Arthur Evans is the archaeologist famous for the excavations he made at the royal palace of Knossos on Crete.

Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.

Latest Posts

  1. A Holiday on Symi

    Mike Gerrard wasn’t sure what to expect from a holiday on Symi, in the Greek islands, but what he found was lots of local feasting, dancing, and music.

    Read More

  2. Our Feast Day on Astipalia

    Greece Travel Secrets helps celebrate a feast day on Astipalia in the Dodecanese Islands of Greece, for the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into Heaven.

    Read More

  3. Easter on Rhodes

    During Easter on Rhodes Greece Travel Secrets publisher Mike Gerrard travels from Lindos to Kattavia to visit a monastery and spend Easter with a Greek family.

    Read More

  4. Walking on Paxos

    Walking on Paxos is the best way to discover this tiny island south of Corfu in the Ionian Islands, with its wooded hills and terraces of olive trees.

    Read More

  5. Easter on Symi

    Easter on Symi is a wonderful Greek celebration and one of the best times to visit the little gem of an island a short ferry-ride from Rhodes in the Dodecanese.

    Read More

  6. Best Time to Visit Mykonos

    The best time to visit Mykonos depends on if you want crowds or quiet, heat or cooler temperatures, all of which affect when is the best time to visit Mykonos.

    Read More

  7. Flying to Greece? Here’s What You Need to Know

    The rules that all international passengers must follow to travel to Greece have been extended until October 8, the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority (HCAA) said on Friday. The rules are part of the H…

    Read More

  8. Delta: Direct Flights from Boston to Athens in Summer 2022

    Delta Air Lines on Sunday announced that it will launch a new service from Boston in the United States to Athens, Greece, in the summer of 2022. Launching on May 27 next year, the new nonstop service…

    Read More

  9. UNESCO Calls on UK to ‘Reconsider’ Returning Parthenon Marbles to Greece

    UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) is urging the British Museum to reconsider repatriating the Parthenon Marbles to Greece and to enter talks on the issue, Greek…

    Read More

  10. Mt Olympus Designated a National Park

    The epicenter of an entire religion and of the ancient Greek world, and a spectacular place of natural beauty, Mount Olympus is finally, officially, a National Park.

    Read More