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The Spirit For Food
The Spirit For Food
Turkey’s solution to food and spirits pairing
Even a wino can admit that some occasions call for liquor. Unfortunately, most 90 proof options do not exactly enhance food. Whiskey and cognac offer far more to cigars. And after a few vodkas, who really cares what you’re eating? So on a night when 90 proof sounds better than 14% (give or take), here’s an alternative that will do more than justice to your food: raki.
Turkey’s unofficial national drink, raki (pronounced “rah-coo”) is a hard alcohol distilled from grape pomace and anise, similar to ouzo, arak, and sambuca. In Turkey, raki is not just a beverage—it’s an institution. Every night of the week, Turks gather in taverns called meyhane to dance to classical Turkish music and drink raki with an astounding variety of foods: fish, seafood, salty white cheeses (like feta), fruit, salted almonds, roasted chickpeas, and even hearty kebabs. Raki with simply prepared white fish, like grilled Mediterranean sea bass or sea bream, is by far the most popular pairing.
Bottom line: if you like black licorice, try raki with a meal—you won’t be disappointed. As the folks at Yeni Raki say, “Raki is the answer; I don’t remember the question.”
Raki is always served in a stemless, cylindrical glass. Pour 2 ounces of raki, add water to taste, and add 1 to 3 medium-sized ice cubes. With water, raki will take on a milky appearance—thus the nickname “lion’s milk.” If you love anise, try raki on the rocks.
• Yeni Raki, Turkey’s most popular brand, is produced from raisins and packs an especially bold anise flavor.
• Tekirdag Rakisi, a popular premium brand, is a smoother-drinking raki that offers a good balance between its anise and brandy flavors. Also keep an eye out for Tekirdag Gold Series, a raki aged in oak barrels.
• Efe Raki is the smoothest but mildest of the three. The toned-down anise character allows more grappa-like flavors to emerge. Try Efe Fresh Grapes Raki to really taste this difference.
What's your favorite wine alternative for dinner? Tell us below.