How To Drink Raki Like A Turk

July 1, 2009 by Anil Polat  

”The best accompaniment to Raki is good conversation.”

-Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

how to drink raki like a turk

Raki, the unofficial national drink of Turkey is more than a glass of alcohol, it’s an experience in itself. There is an entire culture around this strong, anise-flavored liqueur that is very popular throughout Turkey. Visitors to Turkey often wonder what that milky stuff in narrow glasses is and leave without a taste.

If you’re heading to Turkey any time soon, savor the food, conversation, and drink raki like a Turk.

Ordering a ‘Kadeh’

Raki is served in a small narrow glass that is specifically used for the drink. The glass is half filled with raki and ice or water completes the rest. At restaurants you can let the waiter know how much for a stronger or weaker drink. The addition of water turns the drink a cloudy white, which is where the nickname “lion’s milk” comes from.

yeni raki kadeh

Melon and Feta Cheese

Raki is traditionally served as an aperitif, to be slowly enjoyed with several appetizers. The traditional raki meal varies and can include anything from kebabs to salads. The two essentials however are yellow melon and feta cheese.

the inside of a yellow melon

Ice and Water

Don’t be surprised to see a bowl of ice on the table. You can plop a fresh one into your drink as needed and the water will help take the edge off of your stomach. It’s also common to see a raki glass filled with water sitting next to everyone’s raki – also to be sipped on.

The Foods Of Southern Mexico

ice cubes

Sip, Don’t Chug

Raki is a drink that is best savored and you want to sip and drink it slowly. Be prepared to eat for hours, if you’re eating out you’ll be served food and drink all night until you’re done. Don’t worry, you’ll still get drunk in time (it’s 90 proof) but you won’t get the most important thing out of the drink.

sipping raki

A Good Conversation

That’s what drinking raki is all about –  not so much the drink but the ambiance that is created around it. Have some raki with friends and spend hours of talking, laughing, reminiscing, and of course eating.

two people talking at a cafe

Raki is a has a strong anise flavor (much like Greek ouzo or French pastis) and you might be put off on your first taste, which will be easily forgotten as you finish up your first glass and get to a second.

Turkey Travel Planner has a good guide to ordering raki and more about the traditional ‘raki sofrasi‘. So, if you’ve got 48 hours in Istanbul spend an evening out and have a kadeh, some melon, more food, and of course, good conversation.

[photos by: colm.mcmullen, arteunporro, karstenkneese, stevendepolo, meg and rahul, Shutter Pea]

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  1. Tayfun Uçar says:

    “I don’t remember the question. But the answer is Rakı!” 🙂

  2. Bas says:

    Thanks for the blog. I’mm Turkish, living abroad, and I have never had raki in my life (Don’t like the smell or the people who drink it), but I needed to serve it to my scandinavian friends and I didn’t even know how much water should be mixed up with it (…) Your blog helped get 3 hot blondes drunk, if that matters.

  3. Sierra says:

    Love me some rakı… spot-on guide.

  4. Vago says:

    Thanks for that Anil, sometimes as an ex-pat it’s a little tough to understand all the details, like why the ice is on the table. I have one thing to add, Raki is Dangerous with a capital D, I didn’t feel like it was affecting me, but after three drinks, when I stood up – I realized how powerful it was. The headache the next day was a match. I love your blog man, always great stuff here.


    • Anil P. says:

      No matter how slowly you drink Raki, it has a way of creeping up on you for sure but the headache the next day won’t let you forget it 😉

  5. I remember an evening of raki (barely!). I’m bringing a wonderful creamy Belgian trappist beer brewed in a monastery and shipped around the world to this cocktail party. It is called Chimay and is a truly refreshing drink. Sante.

  6. Hi!
    Now this is the way I like to drink. I like the whole culture that works around it:)
    It’s a bit similar to mate in Argentina and Uruguay, even though it’s non alcoholic, but it’s a whole movement practically!

    • Anil P. says:

      Turks love their raki, that’s for sure and you’ll miss out if you don’t get the full experience. The drink is just one part!

  7. Mary R says:

    I tried this in Turkey and liked it. You forgot to mention that you’ll be eating and drinking until 6:00 am, but won’t even feel tired because it’s so fun there!

  8. Hey that’s such an excellent choice of drinks to write about! Welcome to the Drinks Round The World! We enjoyed Raki at the Greek island Crete surprisingly as we thought we should get Ouzo and it was not as milky as the Turkish Raki. And they liked to serve it together with Greek yoghurt & honey – of course!


  9. nikos says:

    well, raki is officially from crete, greece and as another commenter stated it’s traditionally served with yogurt and honey when served as a dessert, or with mezedes when served as an appetizer.

    • Anil P. says:

      Actually, the origins of raki are not known, although it varies from other variations of the anise-flavored spirits. Raki itself is a special blend that’s Turkish, and varies slightly from arak or ouzo.

      Either way, in Turkey melon and feta are probably more common than yogurt and honey, although interesting to hear the variation in Greece.