Rakı Night – Learning The Art of a Turkish National Drink

Rakı: a Turkish institution; the chosen tipple of millions of Turks; sampled by many foreign visitors to Turkey (with varying degrees of success); a clear, 40-45% proof aniseed-flavoured alcoholic drink; transforms into a cloudy, milky-white liquid when water is added; known to many as ‘lion’s milk’; known to us as ‘loopy juice!’

I’ve never been a huge fan of rakı and, in the past, only had the odd taste of other people’s. I like aniseed flavours…maybe it’s the fear of the rakı-fuelled drunken stupor (we’ve seen our fair share of those over the years!) I might find myself in if I dare to drink more.

In the past, friends who came out from England to visit us insisted on drinking it and, in true holiday fashion, used it as a chaser to their Efes Pilsen, ending up in the aforementioned stupor, not to be seen again till early evening of the following day.

Turkish Rakı Night

How many glasses dare you drink?

Our observations on rakı have come up in conversation recently with a Turkish friend and this prompted her to take action. ‘Right, we’re having a rakı night at my house. Rakı is a drink that should be taken with fish, meze dishes, cheeses. It should be sipped throughout the night while chatting with friends. You’ll like rakı if you drink it like this.’ Last night, the rakı evening occurred.

We went along with a generous wedge of our recently acquired Kars Gravyer Peynir and a bottle of rakı. Other friends supplied even more rakı and our hosts served up barbecued seabream and a table packed with cold meze dishes, salads and cheeses. We ate, we sat, we chatted…we drank rakı. And I can now say that rakı most certainly compliments the food that was served – if you don’t drink too much, that is.

Eventually, dinner plates disappeared from the table and we were left with rakı, bottles of water to top up our glasses, bowls of ice for those who wanted to add ice to their drinks, mezes and a variety of cheeses. I finished my first ever full glass of a famous Turkish national drink – and it was immediately replenished.

Rakı Night Apples And Turkish Coffee

An interesting combination for a rakı night

I mentioned that one glass was quite an achievement on my part and maybe another glass wasn’t such a good idea. ‘No, it’s all about carrying on. We all sit and chat. Rakı makes you feel full, that’s all.’ At this point, our friend got up, sliced some apples and sprinkled them with Turkish coffee. ‘This takes away the feeling of being full so you can carry on.’

Whether this worked or not, we’re not sure, but it actually tasted really refreshing. I took my camera out to get a photo – everyone’s used to us now; taking photos for the blog all the time. I managed to get the photo above before this happened…

Make it look pretty for the blog, they said! Goat’s cheese, olives and cherry tomatoes were placed on top of Turkish coffee-covered apple slices. I suspect some of us had gone through more than one glass of rakı…

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  1. I love Ouzo, Raki, Tsipouro, Tsikoudia and like the Greeks and Turks…eat when you drink and drink when you eat!

  2. Raki is the greek Ouzo which I drank all the time in Greece. Sunset, mezze and Ouzo are a must. Drank it with ice and water, usually bought a small bottle to go with my meal and drank it all night without any problem. The secret is to only drink ouzo or raki and not mixt it with before or after beer or wine. Glad you had your baptism finally in Raki drinking!

  3. Hmm. Fascinating! I think it would be super fun to have night on town with you.

  4. There are many things I love about Turkey but Raki is not one of them! I think you were very very brave (I too have seen the stupor!)

  5. @ Peter: Barry likes them. I’m getting there slowly. Good advice on the eat when you drink and drink when you eat.

    @ Anonymous: I’d probably drink raki again but only with seafood or meze.

    @ Belinda: If we had a night out on the town, it would most certainly be a night in the beer! 🙂

  6. @ Liv: First ever full glass last night. I could feel myself getting a bit tiddly as I got further down the second glass so I stopped! 🙂

  7. Oh, I would like to try it! 🙂

    That’s goat’s cheese? I thought they were sliced green apples! Ha ha…

  8. @ London Caller: Goat’s cheese to decorate the apples. 🙂 If you do try any version of this drink, don’t try too much. It soon takes effect! 🙂

  9. Julia, I’m totally with you on only drinking rakı with fish and meze! I think that rakı is all about people and conversation, hence why people drink it over a long evening spent with friends with a table piled end to end with food. It certainly doesn’t strike me as a drink I’d make myself after a long day at work. That’s for wine! (Or Jim Beam!) 🙂

  10. @ Barbara: I think I can get with the whole raki thing in these situations but yes, after a long day, a nice glass of wine (or a beer!) does the trick when drinking alone. 🙂

  11. I have a friend in Lebanon who makes her own arak (similar to raki) and drinks a glass every night before going to bed, after a day spent outdoors in her field; I so envy her lifestyle! Great post.

  12. You know, at first I absolutely HATED raki with a passion! It’s just so strong! After months and months of persuasion and drinking raki at Turkish events, I’ve come to accept it. I still can’t stand the taste but I love the tradition and community that goes along with the act of drinking raki that now, I’m quite fond of it.

  13. @ tasteofbeirut: Wow! I bet that’s a strong one. How does she make that? Sounds like a great lifestyle! 🙂

    @ Connie: So did we! We can drink beer all night but raki is a different story. It was nice drinking it with food. I don’t mind the taste – it’s the effect. But yes, the conversation and food that goes with it; that’s what’s nice.

  14. It’s funny too how raki just doesn’t go in England. Very much a Turkish drink – I like it meself!

  15. @ Claudia: It doesn’t does it. I have friends who used to drink pernod – a bit similar – and I never liked that either. They were always ill after drinking it. 🙂

  16. Hmm, call me crazy but I drank raki for the first time last summer, and really liked it 🙂 We were out for dinner with some Turkish friends, and knowing that raki is similar to rakiya (that would be a Bosnian drink usually made of plums) I made sure that I ate well. So, I ordered lamb for dinner, had maybe four glasses of raki, and was just fine the following day.

  17. @ Hatidza: I’ve heard about all the variations of raki around Europe. Really interesting how everyone seems to drink it with food but it’s never passed over to the UK.
    Glad you were fine the following day after FOUR rakis! 🙂

  18. I do love a drop of raki now and then!

    Those apple slices look pretty good actually!

  19. @ Robin: I think I could get used to it, drinking it like this. The apple slices were, unexpectedly, really nice.

  20. I love raki or arak from Lebanon. I think they’re the perfect match to the cuisine from that region. But that side, I love the taste!

  21. Loved the apples and coffee when I visited 🙂 drank the Lions milk daily 🙂

  22. @ Corinne: Yes, it does match the Turkish cuisine, perfectly. Would love to go to Lebanon.

    @ Anonymous: We’d never seen the apples and coffee idea before but it worked. 🙂

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