Raki is a Turkish unsweetened, anise-flavored hard alcoholic drink that is popular in Turkey and in the Balkan countries as an apéritif. It is often served with seafood or Turkish meze. It is similar to several other alcoholic beverages available around the Mediterranean, Albanian regions, the Middle East e.g., pastis, ouzo, sambuca, arak, and aguardiente. It is considered as the National alcoholic beverage of Turkey.
The term is also used for a wide variety of non-anise-flavored brandies made from distilled pomace which are popular in the Balkans and Southern Europe: Bulgarian ракия (rakia), Greek tsipouro, Cretan tsikoudia (which is also known locally as raki), Cypriot zivania, and Spanish orujo.
Serving and drinking
In Turkey, raki is the national drink and is traditionally consumed either straight (sek, from the French “sec” meaning neat or dry), with chilled water on the side or partly mixed with chilled water, according to personal preference. Ice cubes are sometimes added. Dilution with water causes raki to turn a milky-white color, similar to the louche of absinthe. This phenomenon has resulted in the drink being popularly referred to aslan sütü (“lion’s milk”). Since aslan (“lion”) is a Turkish colloquial metaphor for a strong, courageous man, this gives the term a meaning close to “the milk for the strong.”
Raki is commonly consumed alongside mezze, a selection of hot and cold appetizers, as well as at a rakı sofrası (“raki table”), either before a full dinner or instead of it. It is especially popular with seafood, together with fresh arugula, feta and melon. It is an equally popular complement to various red meat dishes like kebabs, where it is often served with a glass of turnip juice.
The secularist Turkish leader, and founder of the Republic of Turkey, Kemal Atatürk was very fond of raki, and his late-night rakı sofrası sessions were his favorite place to debate issues with his closest friends and advisors