Although it is difficult to guess what this drink is made of from its name, bikla is actually an alcoholic beverage well known in households throughout Dalmatia, the Dalmatian hinterland and its islands. This unexpected mixture combines red wine and milk, which gives this interesting drink its distinct purple colour. Bikla has been around since the second half of the 19th century, but it is believed that even the ancient Greeks knew about this refreshing drink. Apart from the Dalmatian hinterland, it was also common in areas around the mountains of Mosor and Biokovo. On the island of Brač, it is also known as smutica andhmutica, on the island of Hvar as mućkalica, hmutnica and sumutva, but it’s sometimes also jokingly called loza i koza (“the vine and the goat”), as the freshest possible goat milk is mixed with boiled young red wine to make it.
Bikla was traditionally made with young must, fresh after picking the grapes, and goat milk, which could be replaced with cow’s milk. It tasted best during the cold autumn days, when both younger and older people drank various versions of it. The ratio of wine to milk varies from household to household, but the key to making bikla is constantly stirring the pot clockwise while pouring the milk in the wine, in order to prevent curdling. At the very beginning of the must fermenting process, bikla is suitable even for children, but as time passes and the wine matures, bikla becomes stronger.
Bikla is no longer a very common beverage, but the town of Vrgorac is actively trying to bring it back, with “Days of Bikla” (Dani bikle) and “Biklijada”. The latter is an annual festival held on the first weekend in October, and in addition to the traditional fair and other activities, it inevitably includes tasting the star of the show – bikla. The Vrgorac “Days of Bikla” take place in September and October, i.e. from grape picking to the end of the wine fermentation process and All Saints’ Day, when must turns into wine and becomes too strong for this tasty beverage.