Updated at: 23-07-2023 - By: John Lau

Curious about the world of Turkish liquor?

Like its famous counterpart, France’s Pernod, Turkey’s national drink is rakı, an aniseed-flavored alcohol revered for centuries.

This piece will take you on a journey through unique flavors and traditions of alcoholic beverages in Turkey that are woven into their daily life.

Dive in to uncover the mystique behind this spellbinding spirit!

Turkish Rakı

Turkish Liquor (1)

Turkish Rakı, often referred to as the “National Drink of Turkey,” is a traditional Turkish liquor with a unique production process and deep cultural significance.

Definition and production process

Turkish rakı, locally referred to as “Lion’s Milk,” is a potent anise-flavored beverage that holds the title of Turkey’s national drink.

Its production process involves distilling grape pomace twice and blending it with aniseed—a combination that establishes its distinct flavor and aroma.

An essential part of Turkish culture, rakı captivates with its sheer strength; hence it earned the nickname ‘Strong National Drink.’

With alcohol percentages varying on brand types, their potency makes them worthy contenders in the global spirits market.

The production of rakı hinges on a meticulous process. It starts by fermenting grapes into wine before double distillation transforms it into suma – a high-strength spirit.

The suma then undergoes another series of distillations with aniseed, culminating in the final product characterized by strong flavors and unique smell profiles —the famed Turkish liquor at your service!

Enjoying this traditional Turkish alcoholic beverage aligns you directly with centuries-old traditions deeply rooted in Turkish drinking culture.

The significance of rakı in Turkish culture

Rakı holds immense significance in Turkish culture, representing more than just a popular drink.

It embodies the social and communal aspects of Turkish society, often shared among friends and family during meals or gatherings.

The tradition of enjoying rakı is deeply ingrained in Turkish customs, with special rituals and serving methods followed to enhance the experience.

This anise-flavored liquor has become a symbol of camaraderie and celebration, reflecting the warm hospitality for which Turks are renowned worldwide.

Whether sipped slowly or enjoyed alongside delectable meze dishes, rakı brings people together and creates cherished memories that last a lifetime.

In addition to its social importance, rakı also carries historical significance in Turkey.

Known as “Lion’s Milk,” it has been consumed for centuries and is considered part of the country’s cultural heritage.

Its production process involves double distillation of grapes blended with aniseed, resulting in a unique flavor profile that sets it apart from other spirits around the world.

For those new to this traditional Turkish liquor, its intense anise aroma may require some acclimatization; however, once embraced, it becomes an acquired taste loved by many locals and visitors alike.

Other Popular Turkish Liquors


Turkish Liquor (2)

Ouzo, a popular Greek liquor, shares many similarities with rakı. Both are anise-flavored spirits that have become beloved national drinks in their respective countries.

Ouzo is made by distilling alcohol with aniseed and other aromatic herbs, similar to the production process of rakı.

The two beverages also share a strong licorice-like taste and aroma that can be an acquired taste for some drinkers.

Just like rakı, ouzo is often enjoyed alongside traditional dishes in Greece and is considered a symbol of Greek hospitality.

So if you’re a fan of rakı and looking to explore other Mediterranean liquors, give ouzo a try!

Its unique flavors and cultural significance are sure to impress your palate.

Narince and Okuzgozu

Turkish Liquor (3)

Traditional Turkish wines such as Narince and Okuzgozu offer a unique taste of Turkey’s rich winemaking heritage.

Narince, a white wine grape variety, is known for its delicate fruity flavors and crisp acidity, making it the perfect choice for seafood pairings.

On the other hand, Okuzgozu is a red wine grape that produces bold and elegant wines with notes of dark fruits and spices.

These traditional Turkish wines are deeply ingrained in the country’s drinking culture and are enjoyed alongside delicious Turkish dishes.

So if you’re looking to explore more than just raki, be sure to try these unique Turkish wines for an authentic taste of Turkey.

How to Enjoy Turkish Liquor

Traditional serving methods and rituals

  • Pouring raki is considered an art form in Turkey, with a specific technique that involves slowly adding water to the glass.
  • The ideal ratio of raki to water is about one part raki to two or three parts water, depending on personal preference.
  • The traditional way to serve raki is in a special tulip – shaped glass called a “balık” glass, which is believed to enhance the aroma and flavor of the drink.
  • Before pouring the raki, it is common to place a few ice cubes at the bottom of the glass to keep the drink cold without diluting it too quickly.
  • Once the ice cubes are added, pour the raki slowly over them until it reaches about halfway up the glass.
  • Next, add cold water to fill up the rest of the glass, and watch as the clear liquid turns into a milky white color known as “louche.”
  • Stirring is usually not recommended, as it can affect the texture and taste of the drink. Instead, let it rest for a few moments before enjoying.
  • In Turkish culture, drinking raki is often accompanied by meze (appetizers) such as olives, cheese, and grilled vegetables.
  • It is also common to have seafood dishes like grilled fish or octopus alongside raki, as they complement each other perfectly.
  • When drinking raki with friends or family, it is customary to clink glasses and say “şerefe,” which means cheers in Turkish.

Pairing Turkish liquor with meze and seafood

Pairing Turkish liquor with meze and seafood is a delightful way to enhance your dining experience and fully appreciate the flavors of this traditional drink.

Here are some suggestions for the perfect combinations:

Enjoying rakı with meze:

  • Start your meal with a glass of rakı, preferably chilled, alongside a selection of meze. Classic meze options include cacık (yogurt and cucumber dip), haydari (garlic and herb yogurt), and şakşuka (grilled vegetables in tomato sauce).
  • The anise flavor of rakı complements the vibrant flavors of these small dishes, creating a harmonious balance on your palate.
  • As you savor each bite of meze, take occasional sips of rakı to cleanse your palate and enhance the taste sensations.

Rakı and seafood pairing:

  • Seafood dishes are popular in Turkish cuisine, making them an excellent choice to pair with rakı.
  • Grilled fish, such as balık ekmek (fish sandwich) or levrek marine (marinated sea bass), pairs beautifully with rakı’s distinct aniseed notes.
  • For a more adventurous pairing, try calamari or shrimp cooked in olive oil and garlic. The delicate sweetness of the seafood complements the herbal character of rakı.
  • Remember to take small sips of rakı between bites to fully appreciate the interplay between flavors.

Sweet treats with rakı:

  • To conclude your meal, indulge in traditional Turkish desserts like baklava or künefe while sipping on rakı.
  • The richness and sweetness of these pastries provide a delightful contrast to rakı’s strong aromatic profile.
  • As you enjoy the syrup-soaked layers of pastry or cheese-filled delights, let the aniseed notes linger on your tongue for a truly satisfying end to your culinary journey.

Exploring other liquor pairings:

  • If rakı’s anise flavor is not to your liking, you can also explore other Turkish liquors like ouzo or traditional Turkish wines.
  • Ouzo, with its similar taste profile to rakı, can be paired with meze and seafood as well.
  • Traditional Turkish wines like Narince or Okuzgozu offer a different experience altogether. Pair them with cheese or grilled meats for a delightful combination.

Where to Find Turkish Liquor

Local markets and specialty stores

Local markets and specialty stores in Turkey offer a wide variety of Turkish liquors, including the famous rakı.

These places are the go-to destinations for alcohol enthusiasts looking to explore the rich flavors and traditions of Turkish liquor.

Here’s why you should visit local markets and specialty stores:

  1. Authenticity guaranteed: Local markets and specialty stores are known for offering authentic Turkish liquors that capture the true essence of this unique drink. You can find high-quality brands and traditional varieties that may not be easily available elsewhere.
  2. Wide selection: These stores often stock a wide range of Turkish liquors, allowing you to discover new flavors and brands. From different types of rakı to various spirits and liqueurs, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from.
  3. Expert guidance: The staff at local markets and specialty stores are knowledgeable about Turkish liquor, making them excellent sources of information. They can offer recommendations based on your preferences, helping you find the perfect bottle for your taste.
  4. Cultural experience: Visiting these establishments provides an opportunity to immerse yourself in Turkish culture while exploring their liquor offerings. You can learn about the history and traditions associated with Turkish liquor as you browse through their collection.
  5. Exclusive finds: Local markets and specialty stores often carry limited edition or rare bottles that may not be readily available elsewhere. This gives you a chance to try unique flavors or collect special editions as mementos of your trip.
  6. Supporting local businesses: By purchasing from these establishments, you contribute to the local economy and support small businesses in Turkey. It’s a way to engage with the community and show appreciation for their craft.
  7. Tastings and events: Some local markets and specialty stores also organize tastings or events where you can sample different Turkish liquors under expert guidance. This interactive experience allows you to discover new favorites while learning about their production methods.

Online platforms for purchasing Turkish liquor

  1. For a variety of options, you can also check out popular e – commerce sites like Amazon and eBay, which often feature Turkish liquor in their listings.
  2. Many local Turkish liquor brands have their own official websites where you can buy directly from the source.
  3. Don’t forget to explore social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, as some small – scale producers promote and sell their products through these channels.
  4. It’s important to be mindful of the shipping regulations and legal requirements in your country when purchasing alcohol online.
  5. Look for customer reviews and ratings to get an idea of the quality and authenticity of the Turkish liquor being sold on these online platforms.
  6. Some online sellers may offer package deals or discounts on bulk orders, so keep an eye out for those opportunities to save some money while exploring different flavors of Turkish liquor.
  7. Remember to drink responsibly and ensure that you are of legal drinking age in your country before purchasing Turkish liquor online.


In conclusion, Turkish liquor offers a unique and flavorful experience for those who appreciate fine spirits.

From the national drink of Turkey, rakı, to other traditional liquors like ouzo and Turkish wines, there is something for every palate to enjoy.

Whether sipped alongside delicious meze or savored on its own, exploring the world of Turkish liquor is sure to be an enlightening journey into the rich culture and history of this ancient civilization.

So raise your glass and toast to the vibrant taste of Turkish liquor!