I am not a big drinker, I’ll state that right off. I do however like high quality varietal wines, a good beer goes down nicely once in a while, and I am willing to try other inebriating liquids, especially when traveling. When in Rome, and all that. I discovered a new drink, at least one that was new to me: Lion’s Milk, also known as Raki. This clear, potent liqueur is drunk frequently in Turkey, and is somewhat of a national drink. Americans drink Bud, and Turks drink Lions Milk.

Noting that I don’t usually drink all that much, I went easy, which by all accounts was a good thing. The locals I was conversing with were putting it down, and they were full of warnings about how it sneaks up on you, it has to be drunk with food, and that it should always be watered down with cold water, not ice. Warnings away, and we were trying Raki. As previously mentioned, it is a clear liquid traditionally served in a small vial-like glass. Water is added, about 1/3 water to 2/3’s Raki; when the two mix, the liquid turns a milky white hence the name. The flavor is a bit like Uozo, served in Greece: it has a strong licorice flavor from the anise, and is a bit rough, unless you are a whiskey drinker in which case, it is probably not that big a deal. I found it to be pretty tasty, and unless you dislike licorice, it has a pleasing after taste.

Another interesting thing to note, for those of you unfamiliar with Turkish culture: women do drink the stuff, and although Turks are 98% Muslim, this particular drink is a crowd favorite. Men love the stuff there, and drink it rather than wine or beer in most cases (things are loosening up a bit in that regard, as the wealthier class is starting to partake in estate vineyards, imported and local varietal wines).

So when in Turkey, do as the locals do and give Raki a try. Just make sure you have a ride home, some kebaps in the belly and nothing particularly taxing to do the following day, as your head may be “roaring” after the fact.