This part of Croatia also subscribes to the old adage: alcohol is a cure-all. In small doses, of course. Over the centuries, Istrians would regularly drink a glass of brandy before or after a meal to get rid of colds and sore throats. They also believed it would help strengthen their immune system.
Considering the fact that traditional Istrian brandies, especially those enriched with medicinal herbs and honey, are well known for their medicinal properties, it’s no wonder it actually worked. Honey is one of the most important ingredients of medica whose medicinal properties have been well-known since times immemorial, especially with regards to curing sore throats and colds.
Biska, an equally well regarded Istrian brandy, is made from mistletoe, a very healthy plant with numerous benefits to human physiology. It’s said that the recipe for biska comes from ancient druids themselves. Istrians like to say they “disinfect” themselves with travarica and ruta. These brandies are made from medicinal herbs. However, this region also holds the belief that the act of drinking brandy is medicinal in itself: it quickly warms you up for a short time, strengthens the body, relaxes it and helps with digestion.
Old Istrians believed in being prepared when it comes to fighting winter maladies, which is why they would build up their immunity over the entire year, drinking supa, a warm brew made from red wine, sugar, pepper and olive oil, in which toasted bread is dipped. It is believed that good red wine from Istrian hillsides will strengthen the blood so this brew has always been served to ill people, to help with the recovery, but would also be drunk during evenings, next to a warm fireplace. The medicinal properties of olive oil, another valuable ingredient of supa, are well known.
If during incoming holidays in Istria you happen to overdo it with alcohol just a bit, crossing the line between medicinal and toxic, don’t worry! Istrians have a cure for that as well. Look for the alcohol-free blueberry drink, a local hangover cure. Should you overdo it with food and start feeling bloated, ask for a glass of temperanj, a mixture of water and vinegar, traditionally taken with a meal since it’s believed this helps with digestion.