The Absolute Best Way To Consume Turkey's National Liquor, Raki

If you didn't grow up around the Mediterranean sea or had family from the region squirreling away bottles in the cupboard just out of your reach as a child, odds are you aren't super familiar with spirits like ouzo, or raki. These drinks have a lot in common with one another, but ouzo is (usually) Greek in origin.

Raki on the other hand is Turkish (though it is also popular in surrounding countries as well). Greek Flavours says that raki also goes by the name "lion's milk" due to the opaque look the liquor takes on when mixed with water. There are three theories about where the name "raki" originates — some believe it comes from the word "Iraqi," as in the country of Iraq while others suppose the grape variety "razaki grapes" is how the drink got its name. However, the Arabic word عرق (ʕaraq) translates to mean "distilled," so that could also be the answer (via Greek Flavours). 

Regardless of the etymology of the drink's name, Wine Anatolia says that all raki must be distilled from wine grapes and be flavored with anise, and various herb and spice combinations. The spirit is meant to be severed with food, mainly to negate the effects of its strength -– raki tends to sit between 40%-50% alcohol. Due to the high alcohol by volume, raki is usually consumed in a particular way, and like many other beverages (wine, ouzo, whiskey, etc.), how you drink raki is imperative to the experience.

The traditional method of drinking raki

First things first –- and we can not stress this enough -– do not drink your glass of raki like a shot, and especially do not drink it straight. Yabangee states that you shouldn't do this for many reasons, but mainly because it will hit you like a ton of bricks, and because it is meant to act as a digestif or aperitif. You will not be able to pick up all the nuances in your glass if you swallow it all in one go, and it is considered disrespectful to drink quickly like you're racing everyone else at the table. You should also refrain from chasing raki with anything but beer or coffee, and you must dilute the beverage due to its potency.

CNN recommends that first-time raki drinkers should only ask for one shot and dilute it with cold water. The addition of ice into the glass, as it is with ouzo, is a bit controversial. Ice is known to diminish or affect the flavor of raki, but for novice drinkers, that might not be such a bad thing because the alochol is so strong.

Turkey Travel Planner explains that drinking raki is truly a ceremonial experience and must be consumed with friends and a table of food (rakı sofrası), including dishes of salads, cheeses, fruits, and kebap. Before you drink, toast to everyone's health and prosperity with the words "Afiyet olsun" (enjoy the meal) and "Şerefinize" (cheers).