raki (drink), Istanbul
Raki, pronounced "raku", the unofficial liquor of Turkey, is a distilled alcoholic beverage usually consumed straight as a cocktail. It is almost always served chilled, and in a small glass about the size of a shotglass. But it is sipped on, differing from a shot of liquor. It is commonly drank with Turkish "meze", or small appetizer dishes, but is also enjoyed in taverns by itself while chatting with friends. I tried it on several occasions, and being a beer lover, I can say it was not my favorite method of consuming alcohol. But I must say it is not half bad, especially when served really cold!
Meyhane is a kind of restaurant in which you can drink alcoholic beverages, especially raki with the meal. The main dishes of meyhane are fishes and meats. But the most important dishes are meze which means appetizers.
Raki has a ceremonial way of consuming. You can have a beer alone, enjoy whisky or get drunk with vodka yourself. But you need company to drink raki. We say “The best side dish of raki is chat.” And you also need to have a nice table with many kinds of food, in small portions of course.
The main side dishes which go together well with raki are white cheese (like feta), melon (in summer), haydari (a mixture of thick yogurt, garlic, dill, salt), liver, stuffed mussels, meyhane boregi, fava (boiled and smashed broad beans), humus (boiled and smashed chick peas), purslane with garlic and yogurt, green salads, fried livers with onion, borek with pastrami, stuffed vegetables, sea fruits, aubergine salad (grilled aubergine is smashed with garlic and sometimes with yogurt), fried aubergines in tomatoes sauce, pickles, barbunya pilaki (kidney beans in olive oil, cold served), grilled red peppers in garlic and vinegar sauce, mezes from some strange and rare plants,…
When you sit a table in a meyhane, waiters come and ask for drink. Then they bring a tray with the mezes (which the meyhane has at that time) on it. You pick whatever you want. The waiter left the chosen meze, bring you your drink, serve the hot appetizers during your stay and finally they bring the main dish (a fried or grilled fish, for example). All these appetizers are in very small portions. So you need to have at least 3-4 appetizers to be full up. I usually skip the main dish and enjoy the appetizers. It is better for the budget.
Meze tradition is coming from Rum (Greek people in Turkish nationality). The best meyhanes of our time once belong to some Rum Barbas (meyhane owner). Some of them still belong to a Rum but many of them are being managed by the Turks now. But –Thank God- the tradition continues.
In meyhane culture it is very important to stay sober and cool, act reasonable while drinking. I’ve been in meyhanes in which waiters can kick you out if you get drunk and start to sing or talk loudly. But if you drink raki (40-50% of alcohol), it is hard to stay normal. This is why we had many mezes and friends around. You have to drink raki slowly. This increases the duration of chat and enjoying the meal. I remember that I sat at a raki table more than 5 hours.
There is a music tradition in meyhane culture, too. In some meyhanes no music is allowed, but many of them play old Turkish music or Greek songs. There are many many restaurants which do not actually have music but they can have with wandering gypsy musicians, as in Kumkapi. These musicians are generally 3 or 4 people playing some instruments like violin, clarinet, small hand drum… Sometimes a woman (usually an old woman who seems she had been beautiful and had better days in music business) accompanies them as a singer. They sing heart breaking old songs which go together very well with raki. So you start to remember old days, old loves, finally you reach at the point of tears. Then you raise your raki glass, wait for your friends to toast, drink some. Raki is both the cause and the remedy.
Raki , also known as the lion's milk , is the traditional drink in Turkey .
The taste of Raki is very close to the taste of Arak.
Raki is a clear beverage that is made from grapes.
We got Raki while sitting in a restaurant called Beyaz Balina and it was very good.
The raki is a very strong beverage with more than 40% alcohol so beware ! - i saw a woman that her husband had to drag her home after drinking raki.
You can drink the Raki alone but you can also add water or ice and the raki changes the color to a white or pearl.
The turkish people sometimes gather and drink raki , eat cold and hot salad , cheese and playing music or laughing.
Raki is the traditional alcohol drink of Turkey. I suggest you to have it with fish or with appetizers..
P.s. It's very tough, if you don't trust urself with alcohol, take it with alot of water.. ;))
P.s. While u are sitting maybe you can miss it but when you stand up you can feel that you are totally drunkk!!!
.... on your night out, whether at a restaurant while you're nibbling on your 'meze', or perhaps before a (preferably BESIKTAS) footy match, or at a club, I strongly recommend you try ....... Raki, the 'national' spirit..... It is an anisette based liqueur... it's GREAT! You could 'technically' drink it straight, as you'd drink a whiskey, but I strongly recommend you play it 'safe' and mix 1 part of (yeni) raki with 2-3 parts of water...... you'll see the drink will cloud up and resemble skimmed milk....DELICIOUS!
ouzo is the spirit of greece, so is raki for turkey. if you have no problem with its anisette taste, it can easily ce your lifelong drink. anyway you have to pay attention to its magic-its alcohol usualy around 40% vol. Never drink it like beer or wine. Some olive oil is highly recommended before drinking. Meat or fish are always friend of raki. Additionaly meze selection is also important.
If you like it, you may purchase at the airport duty free in a good price and quality.
Even if you don´t like spirits, try Raki: the national drink which is served with water and ice. It is unique.