Honey brandy, also known as medenica, medovača, honey liqueur or most commonly medica, is an alcoholic beverage the popularity of which has never wavered in Croatia, in part because it goes down smooth and easy, but also because of its sweet taste and the gentle honey aroma for which it is well known. Already made back in ancient Rome, it is nowadays often prepared in Istria. Medica is a drink served to boost appetites and as a digestif after a meal because it aids digestion. It is often served warm, which emphasizes the honey aroma that makes it such a popular liqueur.
The base for medica is a fruit brandy with neutral flavour, such as grape brandy or pomace brandy with added various types of honey. When grape brandy is unavailable, medica can be made with apple, plum or pear brandy, but the taste will be different, because the fruit brandy will leave its mark on the final product. Depending on the type of honey added to the alcohol, medica can have a range of colours, from a light-yellow colour which stems from black locust honey to a darker brown which stems from chestnut honey. Spices such as coriander or lemon zest can be added to medica, as well as propolis to increase its health benefits.
Medica usually has between 15 and 25 per cent ABV, and sometimes even up to 30 per cent. It can be easily prepared at home as well, because the basic ingredients of medica are fruit brandy, honey, water and spices to taste. It is prepared by pouring a litre of the chosen brandy, with up to 50 per cent ABV, into a large pot, then adding half a kilogram of honey, and up to half a litre of water, depending on the desired strength of the liqueur. The compound is then slowly heated to melt the honey, with some lemon zest added to the mixture. Once all the ingredients have combined, medica is poured into a large bottle and allowed to sit until the ingredients have blended together thoroughly. After sitting for two weeks, and being shaken occasionally, medica is poured through a straining cloth leaving a clear drink which can be enjoyed immediately. However, medica becomes better with age, so many families keep it for toasting special occasions.