Politics, religion, and culture where East meets West

Acquiring a taste for rakı

with 4 comments

New motto: “Not half bad.” (by maginot)

I never thought I’d be saying this, but I’ve started to genuinely enjoy the occasional evening glass of rakı. Accordingly, I withdraw my previous motto: “Bearable served cold.”

Like Cappadocian wine, Turkish rakı will probably never find popularity in the global market (despite Diageo’s attempts), but perhaps small enclaves around the world will come to appreciate its unique taste as much as I have.

I encourage my readers to pick up a bottle and give it a try, if they haven’t already. Fans of black licorice will be sold immediately—but even the early doubters may, in time, come to appreciate the taste.


Written by M. James

July 18, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Posted in Culture, Turkey

Tagged with , ,

4 Responses

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  1. My wife’s family is from Edirne, so I’ve learned a good bit about drinking rakı. I’d like to offer three tips for enjoying it more. First never, ever shoot rakı. It sounds like you probably already know this, but shooting rakı is a great way to black out and wake up with one of the worst hangovers imaginable.

    Second, rakı is best after meals, mixed with water from about a 50/50 to a 70/30 ratio, the latter if you’re adjusting to the taste or don’t want to get drunk. An ice cube or two is highly recommended, and most places in Turkey will serve you rakı with ice because it takes the edge off.

    Third, rakı is normally eaten with honeydew melon (kavun) and a soft, crumbly cheese whose name I don’t know in English. It’s just called soft cheese (yumuşak peynir) in Turkish. Sipping rakı while eating these two things can make for a very pleasant experience.

    Allan MacLeod

    July 18, 2012 at 11:37 pm

  2. Much appreciated! I have never been served rakı with kavun or yumuşak peynir, but it certainly sounds good. The pairing that I appreciate is with fish, as long as it’s not in an overpriced İstanbul lokanta. I will have to go out of my way to pair with melon and cheese.

    As for shooting rakı, I have been spared that experience in the past by my fear of offending the Turks. If they like the taste, I figured I should at least pretend to (even when I didn’t) and sip it. But that, of course, is no longer a problem.

    It’s kind of funny that you mention Edirne, by the way, because that mosquito-ridden city was the inspiration for this post. My newfound appreciation for rakı actually developed out of a long weekend in Edirne. Is this normal?

    M. James

    July 19, 2012 at 10:31 am

  3. It’s certainly possible. Edirne is a happy singing-and-dancing kind of city, so being there makes it easier to appreciate a lot of things. The mosquitoes are pretty thick, though. Don’t worry about not liking rakı too much, a lot of Turks don’t either. From what I’ve seen, the thing that pisses them off is people sticking their nose up at everything and talking down on their country or hospitality. As long as you’re gracious, they’ll appreciate that rakı is not a readily accessible taste.

    Allan MacLeod

    July 19, 2012 at 11:55 pm

  4. As it is commonly known as the lion’s milk in Turkey, I am glad to see you’ve come to appreciate it. Enjoy!


    September 5, 2012 at 11:14 am

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