Raki: The lion’s milk of Turkey

Photo by David Lansing.

I have been in Istanbul for only a few hours when my good friend Sidar spirits me away from my hotel to “the best kebab place in the city.” No sooner have we been seated in a quiet outdoor garden area than a young waiter in a tuxedo shirt comes up and pours us each a glass of raki. “Just one,” I firmly tell Sidar.

“Yes, of course. Just one,” he says, laughing.

Raki: The lion’s milk of turkey. They say you never forget where, when, and with whom you sipped your first glass of raki. I’ll vouch for that (just as I’ll never forget the where, when, and with whom I shared my first glass of pastis in Paris).

There is a certain etiquette to drinking raki. First, it should be chilled in the bottle, like a white wine, before serving. Secondly, it must be sipped from a straight cylindrical glass, never a rocks glass or a shot. Then you might add just two or three ice cubes and mix it with a little soda water (although Sidar prefers still water).

That’s it. Although you would also be wise, at this point, to order a meze or two—before the raki goes to your head.

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