Any fermented liquor, such as wine, beer, or distilled liquor, that contains ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, as an intoxicating agent. When an alcoholic beverage is ingested, the alcohol is rapidly absorbed in the stomach and intestines because it does not undergo any digestive processes. It is distributed to the rest of the body through the blood and has a pronounced depressant action on the brain. Under the influence of alcohol, the drinker is less alert, less able to discern objects in the environment, slower in reacting to stimuli, and generally prone to sleep.
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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).
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.
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.
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