Thirsty Turks sip 60
million liters of rakı each
year, mostly with meals. (Where a European
or North American will sip wine with
a meal, most Turks will sip rakı.)
Rakı (rah-KUH) is
clear brandy made
from grapes and raisins, flavored with
pungent anise. Most
is quite potent (80- to 100-proof/40%
50% alcohol) and thus usually diluted
with water and sipped with snacks or
to Greek ouzo and French pastis.
When mixed with
ice and/or water for drinking, it turns
milky white. Because of its color and
hefty alcoholic punch, Turks call it lion's
milk (aslan sütü).
If you like licorice and anise,
you may like rakı. If you don't, for
sure you won't.
factories are located near İzmir to
take advantage of its abundant, high-quality
grapes, raisins, anise and sakız (mastic,
pine gum), which is added to some brands.
Until a few years ago, Turkish rakı
was made exclusively by Tekel,
the former Turkish government tobacco
and spirits monopoly which
produced the Yeni Rakı, Kulüp
Rakı, Tekirdağ and Altınbaş brands.
In 2004 the monopoly ended with the
opening of the commercial Elda company
distillery, producing the
Rakı brand. This started
the trend to more brands.
Burgaz, Tarış and Mey as
well as Elda. The
former Tekel brands of Yeni Rakı, Kulüp
Rakı, Tekirdağ and Altınbaş are
now produced by Mey.
The new rakı companies have
elaborated the traditional drink so
that the various brands have slightly
different flavors and alcoholic strengths.
For example, Elda's Sarı
Zeybek is a premium "yellow"
rakı made with choice Tefenni anise
and aged for six months in French oak
barrels to give it a smooth taste and
pale yellow color. It's pretty expensive
for a 70 cl bottle versus TL25 for
Yeni Rakı or TL20.50 for Mey's Yekta brand.
Beware of Bootleg Rakı!
be mentioned that several people died
and others were sickened in 2005 from
rakı (fake, or bootleg,
rakı) made by parties unknown of substances
||Rakı in a special iced holder
to keep it cold...
The illegal manufacture and sale of
liquor in Turkey is partly because
of the high taxes (especially
the "Special Consumption Tax" or ÖTV)
on alcoholic beverages: the tax on
a bottle of rakı in a shop constitutes
more than 50% of the price. More...
With taxes so high, the temptation
for bootleggers to enter the market,
sell inferior—or even dangerous—rotgut
liquor, and pocket profits of 75%,
It's a good idea to stick
to the major brands and
to confirm that the seals on the bottles
are intact before you are served. There
should be few problems in legitimate
restaurants and bars.
Here's how to drink Turkish rakı.