When most people think of Turkey these days, they probably picture really big domed buildings and complicated politics (to coup or not to coup, that is the question). But not many people know that one of the most popular drinks in the western world was invented over fifteen hundred years, at the end of the Roman Empire, somewhere in modern-day Turkey. Or at least, that’s what the Turks say. Pretty much every country around the Mediterranean, including Greece, Albania, and Lebanon, has a fiery type of distilled spirit that they all claim to have invented first, but there’s really no way to definitively prove who came up with it first.
This is one of many arguments the passionate people of this part of the world will have – basically, if you meet someone from a country that claims to have invented raki first, just nod your head in polite agreement and accept their warm hospitality and the glass of fire brandy they’ve just poured you.
It’s easy to understand whyraki is a matter of debate – while not quite as well-known as vodka or whiskey, raki is equally potent (sometimes more) and has a wide variety of tasting notes and subtleties. It’s a spirit that embodies the passionate, sometimes violent history of the region where it was invented.
Raki is the spirit of choice in Albania, where they love to invite strangers (especially Americans) into their homes, but somehow blood feuds still occur between rival clans going back hundreds of years. Raki is a popular drink in rustic mountain taverns in Serbia, where they drink to your health and your honor, as long as your respect theirs (if you don’t, you better run away fast). In Greece, they call it ouzo, but God help you if you call it raki instead, or those pleasant Greeks might not be so friendly!
Raki was originally made by distilling a certain kind of grape with large, long, thick-shelled grains. Depending on where you go, you might find raki made with dried grapes, raki flavored with anis, or with a variety of different fruits added. Some of the more popular flavors include plum, cherry, and pear, but it’s usually hard to discern much fruitiness when you’ve just quaffed a hundred-proof shot of what appears to be lighter fluid.
The best way to enjoy raki is with plenty of good company, good stories to tell, songs to sing, and a hearty meat stew to keep it down. You can find many varieties of EfeRaki here at Liquor Barn.