Raki is a Turkish unsweetened, anise-flavored hard alcoholic drink that 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 of 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.
Turkish Raki is produced by distilling suma which has been mixed only with grape distillate or agricultural ethyl alcohol twice, in traditional copper alembics of 5000 lt volume or less, with aniseed that contains a high percentage of essential oil. With suma processed in seven different distilleries, an aromatic richness the twenty different types of grapes in its composition produce and the scent of green aniseed, Yeni Rakı has a unique taste. To manufacture suma, both fresh grapes and raisins are used. The main difference of Turkish raki in taste and palate from the rakı produced in other countries derives from the aniseed that is used. In rakı produced by Tekel in the past and now Mey, and especially in Yeni Raki, only aniseed grown in Western Anatolia which contains a high percentage of essential oil is used.
Until recently, Raki was made only by TEKEL. Tekel, (Turkish Government Tobacco and Spirits Monopoly) produces Raki with 3 different quality levels. Nowadays some commercial companies in Izmir and other cities started Raki production under variety of name brands. Goverment’s brand raki called ‘YENI’ (‘New’, in Turkish) is 45% by volume but others are mostly %50 by volume.