Wednesday, August 15, 2007

rak•i [RA-kee] - Lion's Milk

I was preparing a paper for one of my classes about Raki and I said why not, just put it in your blog. So, here it is:

When one thinks of Turkey or Turks, one is reminded of Raki. 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 color, and possibly because of its color, this mixture is popularly called aslan sütü, literally meaning "lion's milk" (aslan also means strong, brave man, hence milk for the brave men).

It is similar to several kinds of alcoholic beverages available in the Mediterranean and parts of the Balkans, including pastis, sambuca and ouzo.

The drink made in Anatolia and known as Turkish raki has a history going back 300 years. The art of distillation which started in the Arab world and spread to the neighboring countries was implemented when people thought of making use of the sugar in the residue of wine processing. With the addition of aniseed, raki took on its Turkish characteristic.

During the first years of the Republic, the grape alcohol (named suma) began to be directly distilled from grapes 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 Raki, means 'New Raki'. Molasses gave Raki a distinctive bitter taste and helped it to become popular.

How and what is it made of?

Raki is a usually anise-flavored brandy that is produced by twice distilling either only suma - It is a superior tonic and can be used topically for regenerative effects.- or suma that has been mixed with ethyl alcohol in traditional copper alembics with aniseed.

Raki is made from different fruits in different regions; but grapes, figs and plums are the main ones. Suma is generally produced from raisins but raki factories around established wine-producing areas may also use fresh grapes for higher quality. Recently, fresh-grape raki has become more popular in Turkey. Raki produced from figs, particularly popular in southern provinces of Turkey, is called fig raki.

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 flavor of raki. It is called special raki and is not generally sold; instead, raki factories reserve it as a prestigious gift.

Brand and Taste Variety

(Pictures are mostly from Mey Alcoholic Beverages Industry and Trade Ltd.)

Raki is produced by many different brands which also result vary the taste of the raki. The best-known brands are Yeni Raki and Tekirdağ Rakisi from the city of Tekirdağ, which is famous for its characteristic flavor. The secret of this flavor is said to be the artesian water from Çorlu –a city in Turkey-, used in its production. Yeni Raki has an alcohol content of 45% and 1.5 grams of anise per liter; Tekirdağ Rakisi has 1.7 grams of anise per liter. There are also two top-quality brands called Kulüp Rakisi and Altinbaş with 50% alcohol. Yeni Raki contains about 20% sugar beet alcohol; the other brands of Tekel are produced only from suma. After the privatization 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 Raki, Çilingir Raki, Mercan Raki, Fasil Raki, Burgaz Raki, Ata Raki, Anadolu Raki, Mest Raki, and Yekta Raki etc. Sari Zeybek Rakisi, another recent brand, is aged in oak casks, which gives it a distinctive golden color.

So! You feel like getting out of the wrong side of bed? Let's eat, drink, and be merry!

You’ll love it because of the way of drinking. If you like every minute of your happy hours, this is the drink for you and it will make your happy hours top notch. You can enjoy the quality time with your friends and family thanks to raki, because the way of drinking raki is based on gathering with your beloved ones and chat with them during long duration meals. So we say, this is your chance to experience Ottoman glory!

In Turkey, drinking raki has its own traditional rituals. Most important is what it is to be participated with. Raki is consumed with meze (a selection of appetizers or small dishes taken with alcohol); white cheese is the main and unchangeable "meze" of raki.

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 color. 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, and a glass of salgam-another traditional drink yet non-alcoholic- stands as the best accompaniment to Lion's Milk.

Drink with benefits? Yes, it is possible with raki.

In various sources from ancient times aniseed is defined as an herb that helps breathing and has warming, pain relieving, healing effects. My father used to drink it to get rid of his headache from time to time.

Those who have been drinkers of raki for years and years, point out that this drink affects one according to his/her mood. Sometimes one is tipsy after a glass or two; while sometimes even a huge bottle gives only a feeling of well being and enjoyment.

You are what you eat, you are what you drink, so be ready to try lion’s milk and become a happy lion! :)

Sources in the essay: ,,,


richard said...

Nice article on Raki, but I laughed at your pronunciation. That's how the British tourists say it! It's pronounced something like Ra-Kuh.

pinaroma said...

Thanks for the input. :)
Well, I am Turkish and really don't know how you guys pronounce it. I found this pronounciation on wikipedia, if I am not mistaken. :P

Anonymous said...

I watched the Thirsty Traveler segment on tv yesterday about Raki. It looks interesting, I want to try it. Reminds me of a really nice drink my sister created using fresh young coconut milk. Are we able to find Raki in the markets?

pinaroma said...

Yes, I heard shop rites in NJ are selling couple of different brands. You also may google raki + your states initials to see what comes up.