How to Drink Turkish Rakı

Drinking rakı in Turkey involves a ceremony, some traditions, and a good amount of pleasure. It’s almost always done with friends and lots of good food.

Here’s how to drink rakı: a clear, straight, narrow glass called a kadeh is filled 1/3 or 1/2 with raki, then diluted with water and/or ice to suit the drinker’s taste. (Say Tamam!,tah-MAHM, “okay,” when the waiter has poured enough water and/or ice.)

A traditional rakı sofrası (“rakı table”) bears dozens of meze(MEH-zeh, Turkish hot and cold hors d’oeuvres, salads, cheeses, etc.) but the two essentials are salty white sheeps’-milk cheese (beyaz peynir) and sweet yellow melon(kavun).

While sipping rakı and nibbling meze, there’s good conversation, much humor, and many toasts to your companions’ health (Afiyet olsun!) and prosperity (Şerefinize!).

After you’ve eaten far too much, the main course of kebap or fish arrives, to be followed by a dessert/sweet, fruit and Turkish coffee.

Rakı is sold by the drink (kadeh), in small 17-cl glass pitchers, in half-bottles (35 cl) and full bottles (70 cl).

If you want just one drink, ask for bir kadeh rakı (BEER kah-DEH rah-KUH).

If you’re drinking lightly with one or two friends, ask forbir otuzbeşlik rakı (BEER OH-tooz-BESH-leek, a 35-cl half-bottle).

If you really want to “milk the lion” or you’re with lots of friends, order bir şişe rakı (BEER SHEE-sheh rah-KUH, a full bottle, sometimes called a yetmişlik, yeht-MEESH-leek, a 70 cl bottle).

Rakı is being elaborated even more than just in the bottle. Rakı cocktails are appearing in sophisticated bars and restaurants such as Seraser Restaurant in Antalya. The “Istanbul” cocktail, for example, is a smooth blend of rakı, orange liqueur, lime and pomegranate juice.

Serefinize! (sheh-REHF-ee-nee-ZEH, “In your honor!”) is the proper toast.


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