Best of Istria: Biska

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biska white mistletoe

January 1, 2019 — In today’s Best of Istria article learn more about biska, the mistletoe brandy Istria is most famous for, and find out where to try the best one.

If you’ve ever been to Istria, chances are you’ve already tried biska, since this delicious Istrian brandy is traditionally offered as a welcome drink.

In local dialect, biska is a word for white mistletoe (lat. Viscum album; commonly known as European mistletoe). However, this pomace brandy is made with the addition of several other locally grown herbs. The original recipe is believed to be more than 2,000 years old while the tradition of making biska comes from the Celtic tribes who lived on the Istrian peninsula circa 400 BCE.

In the first century CE, Pliny the Elder described in his writings how, around the winter solstice, the Druid priests would forage oak forests for white mistletoe as the medicinal powers of this evergreen, semi-parasitic plant are known to be at their peak during wintertime.

biska white mistletoe

The Celts considered mistletoe to be sacred and believed the plant had not only medicinal but also miraculous properties. They used it for making an elixir which was then used to cure infertility and a number of other medical conditions. And while Istrian biska might not be this miraculous, all-healing elixir, it is proven to help with circulation, blood pressure regulation, arteriosclerosis, etc.

Istrian mistletoe brandy can be found throughout the peninsula but you will find the best ones around Hum, which is known as “the City of Biska.” The people of Hum take pride in the biska making tradition, as well as in the secret recipe which was handed to them by the late Hum parish priest Josip Vidal, who was also a renowned herbalist.

Hum also hosts the annual festival of homemade brandy which is held every last Sunday in October so if you happen to be in the area, stop by to get your medicine.

For more related content, make sure you follow TCN’s gourmet page.


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