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Rakı and Meyhane

Rakı, the national alcoholic drink of Turks has a high degree alcohol and should not be consumed quickly. Most people drink it by mixing it with water. Colorless rakı turns milky white when mixed with water. Mindful drinkers fill 1/3 of their glass with rakı then add water and finally ice. Ice is never put in the glass first. If rakı is met with ice before water, it crystallizes and the taste changes. Some people drink rakı straight. In addition the rakı should be cold. One sip rakı, one sip water – it softens this strong drink. Deniz Gürsoy who wrote a very nice book on rakı is among the defenders that believe that for each sip of rakı, one should have 3.5 sips of water. Rakı goes well with and often inspires good conversation. It is customary to eat meze (various foods served in small plates) while drinking rakı.

Here are some guidelines to observe when drinking rakı: First, wait until everyone has been served their rakı, then join in the toast all together. Try not to raise your glass higher than the rest. Never drink rakı with other liquors – it does not mix well and you may indeed find yourself feeling ill or suffering a terrible hangover the next day. Rakı is not a one-shot-liquor as vodka or tequila..

There is a saying in Turkish that goes something like this: “If you want to know a person, either travel with them or go and drink rakı with them”. Use good judgment when choosing whom to drink rakı with as it is quickly intoxicating. When you sit down at a Meyhane, you will first order your drinks and then a waiter will most likely bring a large tray of meze to the table and you can pick and choose which ones you would like. Don't forget to order some butter with toasted bread as eating them will help you tolerate the alcohol. Usually, main course dishes follow the hot mezes. If you are not sure what to order, look around at the nearby table and point to something you find appealing. If you happen to sit at a table that is already loaded with mezes, send back the ones that you do not want (without touching them of course) so as not to be charged for them on bill.

It is a good idea to finish your meze before ordering any main course as you may very well find that you are full and satisfied with just the meze. If you are ordering fish, go lightly on the meze or you will be too full to enjoy its delicate flavor.

Often there are musical groups performing which will roam throughout the restaurant. If you do not want them to visit your table, tell the owner or manager immediately. If they do come to your table and play for you it is customary to give a tip. You need only tip one of them, but make the tip visible for all to see, so that they don't keep standing there playing and coercing you into giving even yet another tip.

A list of Meyhanes in Istanbul and Ankara are listed in our Yellow Pages.

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