Marin Nekić, award-winning bartender and cocktail master came up with the idea of first Croatian national cocktail, named CROcktail, which is made from original local ingredients – cherry Maraska, liquor Maraschino and orange peel candy locally called “arancin”.
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During his travels on international bartender competitions Marin studied history of various drinks and recipes for cocktails that are specific for some countries. He came to a conclusion that some of the world’s best known cocktails (like Mojito, Capirinha or Cuba Libre) are actually mostly made of local, autochthonous ingredients, specific for the regions where those drinks were first invented. In that way those cocktails do not only promote countries of their origin, but also stimulate domestic production (sugar cane, rum…) which has positive effect on country’s economy in general.
When he put Croatia in that context, he concluded that there is no national drink or cocktail that would be internationally recognized as originally Croatian. “One of the first things that foreign tourist experience in a destination is local food and beverages. Through gastronomy we can tell interesting stories about our country and present it to our guest in a new and interesting way. “Besides that, in creating such stories I see an opportunity to connect and integrate several different industries that could benefit from such a project” says Marin.
Cherry Maraska – queen of taste
After three years of detailed research Marin came up with a recipe for CROcktail – Croatian national cocktail, made entirely from local ingredients. Biggest challenge he faced was detecting what will make this cocktail authentic and autochthonic.
Therefore he started exploring history of Croatian drinks, trying to find one with the longest tradition. His research led him back to the region where he grew up, Dalmatia, where he now found Maraschino – liquor with the longest tradition in Croatia. Maraschino itself is produced from specific type of cherry named Maraska, which was proved to be the most tasteful cherry in the world and it only grows in Croatia in area between Karlobag and Makarska.
First historical record of Maraschino liquor dates back to 16th century when it was used as a medicament whose recipe was carefully guarded by Dominicans. On the other hand, first record of Maraska cherry goes way back to 1399. and is strongly related to Zadar area.
“Maraska is 100% Dalmatian and Croatian and you won’t find this type if cherry anywhere in the world” explains Marin.
For that reason Marin decided to use Maraschino as a base ingredient for CROcktail. Other ingredients are cherry juice, lemon juice and traditional Dalmatian candy made from dried orange peel, locally called “arancin”. Those four ingredients form the base of CROcktail and there are several other variations with seasonal ingredients like rose hip juice, tangerine juice, fig juice or even quince juice.
Looking for local support
If every Croat would drink only one CROcktail it would take around 180 tons of Maraska cherry and around 35 tons of orange peel candies or figs. In other words CROcktail doesn’t only promote Croatian ingredients, it also uses them! CROcktail is in fact a final product that could help boost several other industries and, ultimately, increase production and export of alcoholic drinks.
CROcktail is currently in offered by around 30 cocktail bars in Croatia, but there is a lot of work in front of Marin and his team.
“Institutions in Croatia that could help this project still don’t seem to see the big picture and all the potential of it. We like to stick with things that are already market proven which, in many cases, means imported… It’s a long road, but every new cocktail bar that serves CROcktail gives me hope and inspiration to continue with this project.” says Marin.
“In spite of unfriendly environment and many barriers CROcktail is proving to be something really special and not just as another item on a cocktail list. Therefore I give my best to keep pushing and I hope that someone from institutions will realize opportunities this idea offers. First of all I want to make CROcktail widely popular in Croatia, it has to be a part of national drinking culture. Without that it is hard to talk about international success.” concludes this young visionaire.
We hope that Marin will succeed in his mission, and that someday CROcktail will be one of the first things you think of when someone asks you about Croatia. If you are in Croatia this summer make sure to try one – it’s great!
• 5cl MARASCHINO from Zadar
• 3cl fresh lemon juice
• 3cl sour cherry juice (Maraska cherry if possible)
• fresh orange grind
• orange peel candy (arancini)
GLASS: Long drink glass
PREPARATION: Place some crushed ice in a long drink glass, adding the ingredients as listed in the order above over the ice. Place some orange grind on top. Mix all of the ingredients with a spoon and decorate.
DECORATION: Sour cherry and orange or lemon arancin.