If you are a traveling foodie, then besides the typical dishes, you have to explore Bulgaria through its beverages too. While the emphasis is usually on alcoholic drinks, such as rakia, here you will find a list of the best non-alcoholic offerings worth trying.
Boza is one of those things you either love or hate. Most foreigners hate it though. It is a thick, sweet, slightly fermented beverage made of wheat that is typical for many Balkan countries, and further to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. The classical combination you have to try in Bulgaria, is banitsa (baked flaky pastry with cheese and eggs) with a bottle of boza. You are most likely to find boza in the bakeries.
Ayran is another common Balkan drink made of yogurt mixed with water and a little salt. It is best when drunk cold and is a favorite way to cool down on a hot summer day. Ayran is sold in every supermarket and bakery.
Bulgarians love preparing compotes for the winter. All summer long they pick fruit from their summer house’s gardens in the province and preserve them in jars. They will often drink the juice of a compote with their strong spirit rakia, or pour it into the blender and turn it into a tasty pulpy drink.
Homemade juices are another way people preserve fruit. Most of them won’t surprise you (peach, apricot, sour cherry) but rummage through your Bulgarian friends’ winter supplies and you may find some more exotic tastes like Cornelian cherry fruit juice or elder fruit juice (consumed to boost the immune system).
Many Bulgarians still choose to go in nature and pick their own herbs for the winter tea. Medicinal herbs Chamomile, mint, linden are among the most common ones. If you happen to visit Bulgaria in summer, you can ask a local friend to take you to a mountain area and show you the medicinal plants to pick.
Grape juice is a slightly fermented temporary product used when Bulgarians make their own house wine. It is very tasty, containing both the freshness of the grapes and the first signs of their fermentation. It is quite difficult to obtain though, you have to be in Bulgaria in late autumn and find a local who makes wine, to ask for it.
Cabbage juice is believed to be the ultimate hangover remedy in Bulgaria. We are not talking about freshly squeezed juice here, but the one obtained from sour cabbage. You can have this in winter only by asking a local or sometimes finding it sold at a neighborhood fruit and vegetable store. Keep in mind that it is sour and very salty, hence its healing qualities.