I don’t feel like drinking, but I’ve just been offered a glass of raki by a boisterous group of Albanians. What is about to happen?

An investigation of eating and drinking in small-town Albania.

You are about to get extremely drunk.

You cannot refuse a glass of raki. Doing so is considered extremely rude. You must at the very least drink a little bit. But of course, that’s just the beginning.


An investigation of eating and drinking in small-town Albania.
An investigation of eating and drinking in small-town Albania.

The group will likely have already selected its krye dolli bash, or the leader of the drinking. This is an imperial-level power, as it is the leader who decides everything else; what you are drinking, how much, and how you are going to toast.

Typically the leader will make an opening toast about a particular locale/sports team/song/sexual conquest/time of day or whatever other thing will soon seem of wondrous importance, once enough has been drunk to forget that it’s just like the others.

With each toast (dolli), of course, you must drink. Not drinking would indicate that you oppose the fabulous subject of the toast, and would be insulting to the toaster, the subject, and all of those participating.

After the opening toast, the leader will usually open up the floor for others to make toasts, but according to a specific order and rules that he selects. A typical example would be for the leader to toast to the health of someone present in the group, for that now-celebrated person to toast another person, and so on. You must, of course, drink to each and every health toast, unless, for example you wish to express hope that the current toastee suffer a disfiguring and impotence-inducing illness.

Should a rule be broken (for example, if someone toasts out of turn), the leader will mete out a punishment, such as taking two drinks instead of one.

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