If you visit Turkey you will no doubt have supped on sweet tea during the day and when the sunsets, their unofficial national drink – Raki. It’s the clear spirit which tastes of aniseed, it’s made from raisins or grain and you’d know about it if you’d tried it. If not. You just have to and now there’s simply no excuse because this drink is now on sale, here in the UK.
The London restaurant, Dabbous hosted the launch of Yeni Raki and I went along to find out more about the drink.
Galip Yorgancioglu, here on the right of chef Ollie Dabbous, is the MD of Diageo, Turkey and based in Istanbul and he attempts to tell me a little about the spirit among the buzz of the special menu he’s organised to compliment the drink.
Yeni Raki is made using a double-distillation process, grapes and aniseed are mixed in copper vats. The history of Raki spans six centuries and is more a dining ritual than a drink. Raki it seems is as vital to the Turkish people as the blood that pumps through their veins and as this is passed on from generation to generation.
Raki is as important as the food on the table, and I’m told it’s a drink that needs to be respected, along with the rituals. The Raki bottle needs to sit at the end of the table and treated like a diner. Raki is not gulped. Absolutely not. It is most definitely sipped. And, after two drinks in short succession, it definitely has to be sipped.
Ollie conjured up a 5-course menu to compliment the drink.
We began with Fennel Shavings With Lemon Balm & Pickled Rose Petals
Then we moved on to raw scallops with Eucalyptus
And a succulent lamb dish
Poached quince with honey, chestnuts and lemon thyme and finish on
Cigar leaf caramel chocolates
Raki isn’t a drink to be supped alone, it’s to be shared – whether it’s at a wedding, a birthday, or to celebrate the birth of a family member or celebrate the life of another. The other thing you must do before drinking Raki is say Serefe (sheh-rehf-ee) or cheers!
The way to drink Yeni Raki is entirely up to you but the traditionalist will add water and a lump of ice. Because of the high alcohol content, 45% ABV, the colour changes when you add water. It’s known as Lion’s Milk and a literal translation from the Turkish name for Raki aslan sütü. Aslan is the Turkish word for lion and a metaphor for strength, whilst sutu is milk so milk of the lion. There’s something that will certainly make the drinker roar after a few too many.
A beautiful book Raki and Fish investigates the fish culture and cuisine of 11 Mediterranean ports. Each city includes traditional recipes from renowned local chefs.
If you fancy embracing the spirit of slow, Yeni Raki is on sale in Asda and Tesco stores as well as ethnic off licences.
All images courtesy of Story PR.