alcoholic beverage

Raki (Turkish: rakı rakɯ) is a non-sweet usually anise-flavored apéritif that is produced by twice distilling either only suma or suma that has been mixed with ethyl alcohol in traditional copper alembics of 5000 litres (1320 US gallon, 1100 UK gallon) volume or less with aniseed. It is similar to several kinds of alcoholic beverages available in the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Colombia, including pastis, ouzo, sambuca, arak, anise castellano, and aguardiente. In the Balkans, however, raki refers to a non-anise-flavored drink made from distilled pomace, similar to Italian grappa, Greek tsipouro, Cretan tsikoudia, Cypriot zivania and Spanish orujo.

In Turkey, raki is the unofficial 'national drink' and it is traditionally drunk mixed with water; the dilution causes this alcoholic drink to turn a milky-white colour, and possibly because of its colour, this mixture is popularly called aslan sütü (or arslan sütü), literally meaning "lion's milk" (a(r)slan is also used to mean strong, brave man, hence milk for the brave).


The word rakı (raki) derives from the Arabic عرق [ʕaraq], other variants being araka, araki, ariki. Araq means sweat in Arabic, which could refer to "condensate" (when raki is being distilled it falls drop by drop like sweat), or to that which makes one sweat (if one drinks too much raki one does sweat).


In the Ottoman Empire, due to the Islamic restrictions, until 19th century meyhanes generally run by Greeks, but sometimes also by Albanians, Armenians, or Jews would mainly serve wine along with meze. Although there were many Muslims among meyhane attendants, sharia authorities could, at times, persecute them. With the relatively liberal atmosphere of Tanzimat Turkey, meyhane attendance among Muslims rose considerably. However, believers would still approach wine with a certain suspicion. Rakı became a favourite among meyhane-goers. By the end of the century, raki took its current standard form and its consumption surpassed that of wine.

During the days of the Ottoman Empire, rakı was produced by distillation of grape pomace (cibre) obtained during wine fermentation. When the amount of pomace was not sufficient, alcohol imported from Europe would be added. If anise was not added, it would take the name düz rakı (straight raki) or douziko (in Greek). Raki prepared with the addition of gum mastic was named sakız rakısı (gum raki) or mastika, especially produced on the island of Tenedos.

During the first years of the Republic, a grape-based rakı began to be distilled by the state-owned spirits monopoly, Tekel (literally meaning "Monopoly"). With increasing sugar beet production, Tekel also began to distill the alcohol from molasses. A new brand of raki made from sugar-beet alcohol was called Yeni Rakı (literally "New Rakı"). Molasses gave rakı a distinctive bitter taste and helped it to become popular.


The standard raki is a grape product, though it may also be produced from various fruits. Raki produced from figs, particularly popular in southern provinces of Turkey, is called incir boğması, incir rakısı (fig raki), or in Arabic, tini. Tekel ceased producing fig raki in 1947.

Suma is generally produced from raisins but raki factories around established wine-producing areas (Tekirdağ, Nevşehir, İzmir) may also use fresh grapes for higher quality. Recently, yaş üzüm rakısı (fresh-grape raki) has become more popular in Turkey. A recent brand, Efe Rakı, was the first company to produce raki exclusively of fresh grape suma, called Efe Yaş Üzüm Rakısı (Efe Fresh Grape Raki). Tekirdağ Altın Seri (Tekirdağ Golden Series) followed the trend and many others have been produced by other companies.

Dip rakısı (bottom raki) is the raki that is remains in the bottom of the tanks during production. Bottom raki is thought to best capture the dense aroma and flavour of raki. It is called özel rakı (special raki) and is not generally sold; instead, raki factories reserve it as a prestigious gift.


The best-known brands of Mey Alkol (In recent past Tekel has handed over the alcohol production rights to Mey Alcohol) are Yeni Rakı and Tekirdağ Rakısı from the region of Tekirdağ, which is famous for its characteristic flavour. The secret of this flavour is said to be the artesian water from Çorlu, used in its production. Yeni Rakı has an alcohol content of 45% and 1.5 grams of anise per litre; Tekirdağ Rakısı has 1.7 grams of anise per litre. There are also two top-quality brands called Kulüp Rakısı and Altınbaş with 50% alcohol. Yeni Rakı contains about 20% sugar beet alcohol; the other brands of Tekel are produced only from suma. After the privatisation of state-owned spirit industry of Tekel in 2004, different producers and brands emerged. There are currently many brands and types of Raki available, including Efe Rakı, Çilingir Rakı, Mercan Rakı, Fasıl Rakı, Burgaz Rakı, Ata Rakı, and Anadolu Rakı. Sarı Zeybek Rakısı, another recent brand, is aged in oak casks, which gives it a distinctive golden colour.

Ways of drinking

In Turkey, raki is consumed with meze (a selection of appetisers or small dishes taken with alcohol); it is especially popular with white cheese and melon and with fish. Raki is generally drunk mixed with cold water. Ice cubes may be added, preferably to diluted raki, since its anise may otherwise crystallize. When the water is added, the mixture turns a whitish colour, similar to the louche of absinthe. In addition to mixing raki with water in its own glass, it is customary to drink raki with a separate but complementary beverage. For the casual raki drinker, a glass of cold water is suitable. For the serious connoisseur of raki with kebab, a glass of şalgam stands as the best accompaniment to Lion's Milk. Sometimes raki is drunk with ayran (in a separate glass), which is said to prevent hangover.

See also

External links



  • Forbes, Robert, J.; Short History of the Art of Distillation from the Beginnings Up to the Death of Cellier Blumenthal; Brill Academic Publishers; ISBN 90-04-00617-6; hardcover, 1997

Search another word or see Alcoholic Beverageon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature