Lion’s Milk is the Turk’s blood…

Rakı, or lion’s milk as we would like to call it, is considered national drink of Turks. Or at least, by the people who drink it and believe in its place in our culture. It is made with the distillation of grapes and flavored by aniseed. Has a strong liquorish taste and that taste can send you to two extremes of the “like” scale.

Taken either straight (“sek”) or with water, it definitely does not stay in you like it stays in the bottle, as we’d like to say…It is when that water hits the clarity of rakı that everything starts to get blurry for people who drink it…or milky in plain appearance.

You can not “grab” one like a bottle of beer when you stop by at a friend’s house or at a pub. You can not “just pour one glass” and work the room like you would do with a glass of wine. Rakı has its culture, table, and its food. Rakı has its moods, tears, and laughs. Rakı gives you a load of wisdom just like any respectable drink should do.

To earn rakı’s respect,  you have to set the table, have proper food on that table – at minimum cold cantaloupe chunks, white cheese (feta cheese) and a bowl of ice – and the close friends to drink it with. You set your pace to “slow” and start tasting some meze, some cheese and take a sip here and there. If you have some grilled fish and arugula, then you are in heaven!

As a kid, I found myself around the rakı table, either at our house, or at my parents’ friends’ houses because kids were not left behind at home those days. I saw the adults saving the country with their deep political discussions with several sips, family matters and the latest gossip shared between the bites while I rolled my eyes at them. The nights were long when that bottle was placed in a pool of ice, especially the summer nights. The smell did not sit well with me back then. But then of course, rakı found its way onto my lips once I was one of those adults and I “got it” – why the conversations were sweeter and deeper. Why it does not feel like getting drunk but more like you are pouring your guts out to share your life with whomever you are drinking with.

Because you can not rush through a glass of rakı. You have to give it the time it deserves and in return it makes you poetic, melancholic, patriotic, homesick, in love, teary eyed, or  cheerful enough to burst into a song all of a sudden… or gives you the false sense of strength and power, hence “the lion’s milk”! No matter what, you set the mood and the anise smell takes you to a lot of places that mood allows.

Şerefe!

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15 Comments:

  1. by Angie@Angie's Recipes
    10:12 am
    Aug 11, 2013

    I have never had a raki…and a raki table sounds like a perfect breakfast for me as it has EVERYTHING I love..
    p.s Is it sweetened? I noticed many Turkish snacks and drinks are a bit sweet for my taste.

  2. by Ilke
    10:23 am
    Aug 11, 2013

    Angie, it has a bit sweeter taste than many alcoholic drinks. But nothing too drastic.

  3. by john@kitchenriffs
    12:46 pm
    Aug 11, 2013

    I’ve not heard of raki – sounds really intriguing! I love the flavor of anise, so this has my name on it!

  4. by A Cat From London
    7:54 pm
    Aug 11, 2013

    How beautiful you describe our lion milk. Afiyet şeker olsun :) .

    And a video for the language of rakı table:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFKaVjao6js

  5. by Joy @MyTravelingJoys
    3:38 am
    Aug 12, 2013

    And we have two bottles of Yeni Raki I brought back from duty-free this trip! Love it with tons of Turkish mezes. I don’t even need the balik. Serefe! :-)

  6. by Turkey's For Life
    5:02 am
    Aug 12, 2013

    Awww, lovely post. We had a ‘rakı night’ at a friend’s house last year where we ate fish and meze and talked all night. A great night…but I made the one glass last all night. I’m not good with rakı. ;)
    Julia

  7. by Ilke
    7:13 am
    Aug 12, 2013

    Julia, you added a whole new level to the “slow drinking” :) One glass for whole night??? :)

  8. by Martin Wood
    5:58 am
    Aug 12, 2013

    I LOVE my Raki and always have one as a nightcap, good too before dinner as a digestive. Unfortunately what I bring back from Dalaman does not last long enough, and nor does the litre I buy at Dalaman on the way in to Turkey! It is so expensive in the shops.
    My Mrs wont touch it and hates the smell, ever since she downed a fair few neat ones on holiday once, woke up with a hangover then proceeded to drink lots of water…..
    The result was total inebriation by 11am! ha ha!

  9. by Ilke
    7:15 am
    Aug 12, 2013

    Hey Martin, I did hate the smell long time ago as well :) Yeah the hangover is not pretty if you drink lots and quick :( I can completely understand her!
    The prices are crazy, the government is trying to discourage it I guess by taxing it heavily”. I heard that what they sell for 80 YTL in Turkey is 30 YTL in Cyprus. So many people bring lots of bottles from there.

  10. by rebecca
    10:52 pm
    Aug 13, 2013

    fascinating and love the name I would like a sip :-)

  11. by Mrs Ergül
    11:35 pm
    Aug 18, 2013

    We just got back from Istanbul this morning. On this trip, we made a new friend and she was just telling me the same things about rakı! Reading what you wrote is like deja vu. Şerefe!!

  12. by Ozlem's Turkish Table
    5:08 pm
    Aug 20, 2013

    Wonderful post Ilke, I love all the raki rituals though this is a drink I wish I could enjoy more – maybe next time we meet up we may cling glasses, hope so!:)
    cok selamlar,
    ozlem

  13. by Mandy Bora
    12:17 pm
    Aug 31, 2013

    It’s very hard to get my husband’s attention with any sort of food blog, but he loved (and even shared!) this one when I sent it to him. Being Turkish, Raki is his ritual (“honey, make me a raki plate please”). We both thoroughly enjoyed this, Ilke! Thank you!

  14. by Ilke
    12:24 pm
    Aug 31, 2013

    Glad to hear you both liked it :) I do love making raki plates :)

  15. by Erica
    8:47 am
    Nov 9, 2013

    My husband has a few bottles of Yeni Raki….he only keeps for special occasions, because it is hard to find here….

Trackbacks

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