Worldwide famous raki (coming from the Arabic word arak, sweat) is an alcoholic drink produced by distilling fruits like grapes, fig, plum etc. with ethyl alcohol. It is also known as aslan sütü (lion’s milk) among the public. Raki is drunk in the evening with a few mezes. It is a popular belief that raki is served with main course such as fish, kebab but actually it is a cocktail drink consumed with mezes and a nice chat. Most rakı experts say that rakı isn’t drunk with ice, but cold water if you prefer it cold.
What experts say about Turkish raki
“All the meyhanes are the faculties of the Rakı University. Yakup, Refik, Sefa are good faculties.” Vefa Zat
“Rakı isn’t ‘fondip’ and isn’t drunk with meat such as salami, sausage, ham etc.” Deniz Gürsoy
“The best rakı mezes are (feta) cheese and melon.” Ömer Nida
How to drink Turkish raki
It is drunk with water. Pour one shot (tek) or double (duble) raki into the glass and add some water (and ice preferably, which is not prefered by the raki experts). The water makes it white, like milk, lion’s milk! And drink it with some meze, not too much meze or a meal.
- 20’lik (Yirmilik) 20 cl. rakı bottle.
- 35’lik (Otuz beşlik) 35 cl. rakı bottle, küçük rakı (small bottle of rakı).
- 70’lik (Yetmişlik) 70 cl. rakı bottle, büyük rakı (big bottle of rakı).
- 100’lük (Yüzlük) 100 cl. rakı bottle.
How not to drink Turkish raki by Deniz Gürsoy, a raki expert
- Don’t drink rakı during the day.
- Don’t drink rakı alone. It is a social drink and drunk with meze and chatting.
- Don’t talk business or anything serious at the rakı table.
- Don’t drink rakı somewhere noisy. This may stop people chatting and enjoying rakı and the table.
- Don’t ‘fondip’ (shot, bottoms up) rakı. It is drunk slowly like a cocktail drink.
- Don’t eat foods like salami, sausage, sucuk or meals with rakı.
- Don’t put a lot of ice in the rakı glass.
- Don’t mix rakı with other drinks to make a cocktail drink.Don’t drink another drink before or after rakı.
Where to drink raki: Meyhane
Meyhane is a tavern, public house, a traditional restaurant or bar in Turkey and the Balkans. The word is composed of two Farsi words: mey (wine) and hane (house). Meyhane serves alcoholic beverages like wine, rakı, vodka, beer etc with meze and traditional foods. Today a meyhane is either a cheap place, mostly serving the lower class people or a posh, pricy restaurant with traditional kind of music and entertainment.
Turkish Raki Table: Cilingir Sofrasi
Çilingir Sofrası is a dinner table prepared with rakı and a few mezes, hors d´oeuvres. Çilingir is locksmith, sofra is table in Turkish. According to one theoy, the word çilingir was mutated from the word çeşnigir that was the person who tasted Sultan’s food in the palace. Çeşnigir was served the food in small proportions just like mezes today, so it was called çeşnigir sofrası, a lot of food in small portions. Another theory is that drinking rakı helps people to open up just like a locksmith opens the doors and it is called çilingir sofrası. Which one do you think makes more sense?
There is a popular belief that rakı is drunk with a meal, usually fish or meat as well as many different mezes. However, rakı is a cocktail drink and the rakı table, çilingir sofrası in other words, should be as light and humble as possible according to rakı experts. Cheese, melon or water melon, cucumber, almond and something salty or spicy like börek or ezme would make the best çilingir sofrası.
Turkish Raki Foods: Meze
Meze is snack, appetizer, starter, hors d’oeuvre, side dish, side order, delicatessen, deli, which is the indispensable food of Turkish and Mediterranian cousine as a starter or side food. Mezes vary from cold food (cheese, salad, yoghurt, cold meat, nuts, olive oil vegetables etc) to hot food (börek and seafood as starter before the meal or during the meal as side food). Meze associates rakı more than any other drinks.
The most favourite mezes for rakı table çilingir sofrası are as follows:
- Arnavut Ciğeri A kind of meal or appetizer made from liver cut in small chunks dipped in flour and fried. Arnavut Ciğeri, literally Albanian liver, can be served as main course or cold appetizer, and also eaten as a fastfood served in sandwich. Ingredients are liver (lamb or veal) flour, salt, red pepper powder, black pepper, oil, onions, parsley, sumac.
- Badem Almond, another good meze for raki table especially almond kept on the ice sold by street vendors around the restaurants.
- Beyaz Peynir White cheese, feta cheese.
- Beyin Salatası Brain (of a sheep) salad, boiled brain served cold with a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice.
- Cacık A kind of meze or side dish made with yoghurt and cucumber. Cacık is simply made with yoghurt and cucumber but also mint or dill, olive oil and garlic is added preferably. It is served as a side dish or meze as well as cold soup on hot sesaons.
- Çiroz Salted and dried thin mackerel.
- Çoban Salatası A very popular and simple mixed salad made of tomatos, cucumber, green pepper, onions, parsley and olives dressed with lemon or vinegar, and olive oil.
- Dolma See Turkish Stuffed Foods
- Ezme A very simple but delicious spicy meze made with chopped tomato, onions and pepper paste. Ingredients are onions, greenpepper, tomatoes, garlic, parsley, dill, fresh mint, pepper paste, thyme, salt, blackpepper, redpepper, lemon juice and olive oil.
- Hamsi Deep-fried anchovy.
- Haydari A kind of meze made from yoghurt, garlic, olive oil and spices. Haydari is one of the main mezes of a çilingir sofrası (rakı table). Ingredients are süzme (strained) yoghurt, garlic, cumin, thyme or mint, red pepper, parsley, salt.
- Karides Güveç Stewed prawn. Most favourite prawn meal for İstanbullu and one of the best rakı mezes. It is made with large shrimps, onion, carrots, tomatoes, bayleaves, garlic meshed, corn oil, flour, grated cheese, salt, black pepper.
- Lakerda Saltbonito, bonito preserved in salt and served as meze.
- Mücver A fried patty made of squash, dill, cheese, eggs and spices. It is usually served with garlic yoghurt.
- Paçanga A kind of börek made with pastrami, tomato, pepper and kaşar cheese and deep-fried in oil. Paçanga goes very well with an Efes.
- Pilaki A kind of dried beans or kidney beans meal in olive oil served cold. Pilaki is also made from fish such as lüfer, levrek and palamut.
- Piyaz A cold dish or salad made with dried beans, chopped onions, parsley, olives, boiled eggs, vinegar and olive oil; onions that have been chopped, salted, and mixed with parsley.
- Rus Salatası Russian salad, a kind of salad made from mayonnaise, pickles, carrot, peas and potato, known as Amerikan Salatası, Rus Salatası, Olivye Salatası, usually consumed as meze as well as added into sosisli (hot dog) and kumpir (baked potato).
- Şakşuka A kind of fried eggplant meal with tomato, garlic and yoghurt sauce.
- Sigara Böreği A very simple kind of börek with cheese.
- Turşu Pickles. It is usually made of vegetables and fruits such as cucumber, cabbage, pepper, green tomato, sloe, plum, gherkin, carrot, zucchini, eggplant, beans, beet, quince, apple, unripe melon and many other vegetables and fruit. Also bay leaves, blackpepper, lemon, garlic, dill, parsley, ginger are added to give aroma to pickles.
Turkish Raki Dictionary
- Aslan sütü Lion’s milk, a name given to rakı in colloquial speech
- Çakırkeyf Tipsy
- Duble Double, a double (of raki)
- Ehlikeyf A pleasure-loving person; a copper container used to keep rakı glass cold
- Tek One, single, one and only; single shut (of raki)
- Tekirdağ A city in the west of Istanbul; a very good quality raki brand
- Yeni Rakı The most popular raki brand preferred by Turkish people
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