Rakı as a drink has been in the Turkish consciousness for over 500 years. Distilled using grapes, raisins and aniseed, Rakı was first referenced in literature in 1510. It was then widely distilled throughout the Ottoman Empire and in 1937 it became known as Yeni Rakı meaning “New Rakı” to symbolize the coming of the new post-war era.
Rakı is a typically Anatolian product with a cultural legacy that spreads throughout Turkey and beyond. There is no clear answer to the question of who first made Rakı. Yeni Rakı as we know it today is the product of an evolution that has developed over centuries.
The rich heritage of Yeni Rakı matches its rich flavour. With its tones of aniseed and distilled grapes, it is layered and dramatic. This flavour is created through a highly crafted distillation process. It is a skilled and timely process with the flavour and texture developing with each drop.
Grapes are removed from their stems and pressed to create suma. The suma is then twice distilled and mixed with aniseed on the second distillation process in traditional copper stills. The finished Yeni Rakı is then aged oak barrels for a minimum of 30 days to mellow and develop its final distinctive taste.
Serving and drinking
Toasting with rakı, in typical rakı glasses
In Turkey, rakı is the national drink and is traditionally consumed either straight (sek, from the French "sec" meaning neat or dry), with chilled water on the side or partly mixed with chilled water, according to personal preference. Ice cubes are sometimes added. Dilution with water causes rakı to turn a milky-white color, similar to the louche of absinthe. This phenomenon has resulted in the drink being popularly referred to aslan sütü ("lion's milk").Since aslan ("lion") is a Turkish colloquial metaphor for a strong, courageous man, this gives the term a meaning close to "the milk for the strong."
Rakı is commonly consumed alongside meze, a selection of hot and cold appetizers, as well as at a rakı sofrası ("rakı table"), either before a full dinner or instead of it. It is especially popular with seafood, together with fresh arugula, beyaz peynir and melon. It is an equally popular complement to various red meat dishes like kebabs, where it is sometimes served with a glass of şalgam.
The founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, was very fond of rakı, and his late-night rakı sofrası sessions were his favorite place to debate issues with his closest friends and advisors
Anise-flovored Rakı, has been celebrated as a festival in Adana and Northern Cyprus since 2010. World Rakı Festival in Adana, emerged from a hundred-year tradition of enjoying Adana kebab, with liver, şalgam and rakı. The event turned into a nationwide popular street festival, street musicians playing drums and zurna, entertain visitors all night long at the second Saturday night of every December. North Cyprus Rakı Festival is a week long festival taking place in Girne, Lefkoşa and Gazi Magosa.
||Best stored in a cool dark place.
||Serve with ice and water
|Country of origin
||45 % Vol
Drinking rakı in Turkey involves a ceremony, some traditions, and a good amount of pleasure. It's almost always done with friends and lots of good food.
Here's how to drink rakı: a clear, straight, narrow glass called a kadeh is filled 1/3 or 1/2 with raki, then diluted with water and/or ice to suit the drinker's taste. (Say Tamam!,tah-MAHM, "okay," when the waiter has poured enough water and/or ice.)
A traditional rakı sofrası ("rakı table") bears dozens of meze(MEH-zeh, Turkish hot and cold hors d'oeuvres, salads, cheeses, etc.) but the two essentials are salty white sheeps'-milk cheese (beyaz peynir) and sweet yellow melon(kavun).
While sipping rakı and nibbling meze, there's good conversation, much humor, and many toasts to your companions' health (Afiyet olsun!) and prosperity (Şerefinize!).
After you've eaten far too much, the main course of kebap or fish arrives, to be followed by a dessert/sweet, fruit and Turkish coffee.
Rakı is sold by the drink (kadeh), in small 17-cl glass pitchers, in half-bottles (35 cl) and full bottles (70 cl).
If you want just one drink, ask for bir kadeh rakı (BEER kah-DEH rah-KUH).
If you're drinking lightly with one or two friends, ask forbir otuzbeşlik rakı (BEER OH-tooz-BESH-leek, a 35-cl half-bottle).
If you really want to "milk the lion" or you're with lots of friends, order bir şişe rakı (BEER SHEE-sheh rah-KUH, a full bottle, sometimes called a yetmişlik, yeht-MEESH-leek, a 70 cl bottle).
Thirsty Turks sip 60 million liters of rakı each year, mostly with meals. (Where a European or North American will sip wine with a meal, most Turks will sip rakı.)
Rakı (rah-KUH) is clear brandy made from grapes and raisins, flavored with pungent anise. Most is quite potent (80- to 100-proof/40% to 50% alcohol) and thus usually diluted with water and sipped with snacks or meals.
It's similar to Greek ouzo and French pastis.
When mixed with ice and/or water for drinking, it turns milky white. Because of its color and hefty alcoholic punch, Turks call it lion's milk (aslan sütü).
If you like licorice and anise, you may like rakı. If you don't, for sure you won't.
Some rakı factories are located near İzmir to take advantage of its abundant, high-quality grapes, raisins, anise and sakız(mastic, pine gum), which is added to some brands.
Until a few years ago, Turkish rakı was made exclusively by Tekel, the former Turkish government tobacco and spirits monopoly which produced the Yeni Rakı, Kulüp Rakı, Tekirdağ and Altınbaş brands.
In 2004 the monopoly ended with the opening of the commercial Elda company distillery, producing the premium Efe Rakı brand. This started the trend to more brands.
The major rakı-producing companies now include Burgaz, Tarış and Mey as well as Elda. The former Tekel brands of Yeni Rakı, Kulüp Rakı, Tekirdağ and Altınbaş are now produced by Mey.
If you want to try some Turkish customs and traditions, an easy induction is to drink a glass of Raki, the unofficial national alcoholic drink of Turkey. It tastes like the Greek equivalent of Ouzo and is widely consumed in Turkey despite high price increases over the last few years.
There is certain etiquette to drinking it though. Just like the French respect their wines and the English love their beer; Turks have an age-old tradition for drinking Raki the right way!
The nickname for Raki is lion’s milk because it is traditionally drunk with water and ice. The water clouds it to a milky white appearance hence the nickname.
Consume Raki over enjoyable conversation with good friends during the course of a long evening. Fish is the best meal to eat with it however if your appetite is not that big, a plate of mezes on the table to share between everyone is the next best choice.
If there is a group of friends sitting down, it is impolite to order your own glass, instead a bottle for the whole table should be ordered.
back glass after glass, be aware that the alcohol content is 40%.
I have heard locals say that if you are suffering the next morning, drink one more glass of Raki and you will feel on top of the world; the equivalent of the western saying “hair of the dog”
As much as Raki should be drunk with water, some clever Turkish executives hit upon the idea of Raki cocktails so they could cash in on the popularity.
You will see menu for Raki cocktails in most sophisticated bars and a few nightclubs. At least try one glass of the national drink while you are in Turkey. You never know, it might become your favourite tipple.
UK Chief Medical Officers recommend adults do not regularly exceed:
Men 3-4 units a day
Women 2-3 units a day
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