Lion’s Milk: Rakı is Aniseed Flavoured Drink

Aniseed flavoured drink Raki or Lion’s Milk is known as Turkey’s national drink. Turkish alcohol rakı traditionally accompanies a meal of fish and drinking it has its own culture. This aniseed spirit is extremely strong and the clear liquor is usually diluted with water. 

Raki is aniseed-flavored spirit was originally produced from the solid residue of the grape.

Raki is aniseed-flavoured spirit was originally produced from the solid residue of the grape.

The traditional tipple Raki is a strong aniseed-based spirit, which is sometimes known as Lion’s Milk. It is similar to Greek ouzo and Italian grappa. The aniseed spirit is clear but turns cloudy when water, ice or soda is added. Most people do dilute it with water although some drink it only with ice. Some prefer Raki straight up with a glass of water on the side, although this is not recommended for inexperienced people. Watch the video to take a glimpse of Raki.

Raki is so entwined with eating meze that the meze spread is often called a raki table. Raki can be drunk with any meal yet mostly preferred by the seafood.

How to Drink Turkish Alcohol Raki

Drinking raki is an art and raki has its own culture. It is unusual for a Turk to drink alcohol without eating at the same time. Raki traditionally accompanies a meal of fish and in between meals, melon and white cheese are often served alongside it.

Raki traditionally accompanies a meal of fish

Aniseed flavoured drink Rakı traditionally accompanies a meal of fish.

See Also: 6 Amazing Turkish Drinks You Have to Try

Turkish Raki Culture and Etiquette

Inhabiting Turkish soils and cheering up tables for centuries, raki has created its own culture along with its nature. It is serious business in Turkey. Raki is the go to spirit for a celebration. However, you can’t just drink raki anywhere, at any time, with anyone. All these variables depend on unspoken codes and are highly dependent on one another.

How to Serve: Raki is always served with chilled water, although some fans say ice diminishes the flavour of the drink.

Meze: Meze, Turkish appetizers, are Raki’s perfect culinary companions, you can graze on them all night. Feta and melons are the first mezes to appear, at a raki gathering, you won’t even have to order them.

Fasil Music: Fasil provides additional spirit at a raki gathering.

Cilingir Table: Friends gather around a cilingir table is renowned for unlocking the secrets of any heart.

Clink Bottoms: It is good etiquette to clink the bottoms of your glasses when toasting with raki.

History of Raki

There are different suggestions on the etymology of the term raki (Turkish: rakı).  According to one story, the term raki is derived from the Razaki type grape which has large, long and thick-shelled grains. The similarity between the pronunciation of razaki and raki terms and the definition of raki as a Turkish alcoholic drink strengthen the possibility that raki term is derived from this type of grape.

Turkish alcohol Raki is an aniseed flavoured spirit.

Turkish alcohol Raki is an aniseed flavoured spirit.

On the other hand, some believe that “raki” term was produced by Turkmens in Iraq and derived from the word “Iraki” meaning spread out to neighbouring countries and therefore used to mean “coming from Iraq”. This suggestion is further supported by the fact that the drink produced from dried grapes and flavoured with anise in Kirkuk Region is still called “Arak”. The alcoholic drink made by the Turkic tribes in Central Asia by distilling kumis (Turkish: kımız) and named as “Arika” today is the most similar drink to the raki we know.

The term “arak” meaning “sweated” in Arabic is considerable in understanding the etymology of the term raki. Some researchers suggest that “arak” meaning a drop of sweat stands for distilling and distillation, as well and thus “raki” term is derived from this word.

Even though there are no certain documentations evidencing where and by whom raki was first produced, it is accepted by almost every country in the world that raki was first produced on Ottoman soils.


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