Located between Europe and Asia, Turkey has been greatly influenced by several civilizations and cultures throughout history. This provided Turkey with a rich and diverse cuisine complete with delicious drinks that you have to try.
If you are planning to visit Turkey, it’s best to drink as the locals do! Branch out and try something new, and we promise you’ll fall in love with at least one of the drinks on this list.
So, what are the best drinks to try in Turkey?
7 Best Drinks in Turkey
1. Turkish Tea
Tea is literally everywhere in Turkey! From restaurants and shops to schools, homes, and offices, you’re always treated to a freshly brewed pot of black tea. Drinking tea is an essential daily routine for Turkish people.
Believe it or not, many locals drink up to 10 glasses of tea every single day! And when you’re offered a cup of tea in Turkey, you can always assume it’s black tea.
There are many other herbal and fruit teas in Turkey, but Turks refer to black tea as çay, which literally means “tea.” So if you wish to have some other variety, you need to ask for it specifically. You can have Turkish black tea with some sugar, honey, or lemon, although most locals prefer it plain or with sugar.
Tea leaves are grown in the northern Blacksea (Karadeniz) region of Turkey. Traditionally, Turkish tea is brewed in a teapot called çaydanlık, usually for about 15-20 minutes. The longer it waits, the darker, stronger, and more bitter it gets.
Turkish tea is best enjoyed in Turkish tea glasses made of thin glass with a special curve and shape.
2. Turkish Coffee
Turkish Coffee is a world-famous hot drink, and it’s the second most popular one in Turkey. Turkish coffee is close to a double-espresso in terms of strength and size.
What makes it special is the unique brewing method. Turkish coffee is made in a special pot called cezve, traditionally made from copper.
This strong coffee is sweetened with white sugar before being served, so you’ll be asked how sweet you want it when you order one. You’ve four options: sade (no sugar), az şekerli (slightly sweetened), orta (mildly sweetened), and şekerli (sweet).
Turkish coffee is served in small porcelain cups with handles, usually with sweet Turkish delights called lokum or some chocolate on the side.
You put one spoonful of coffee per person in the water at room temperature, add sugar if you like, and slowly cook it. It can also be made with milk, but it’s not common.
You stir the coffee constantly and pour it into small cups right when it starts boiling. If you let it boil longer, you’ll lose the bubbles and foam, which are desirable to have.
Coffee has an important role in Turkey’s culture. Guests are usually offered Turkish tea or coffee after a meal or during any kind of meeting.
Turkish coffee is also a big part of the ceremonial step before engagement. When the future groom and his family ask for the future bride’s family for their daughter’s hand in marriage, they are served coffee, made by the bride-to-be.
This is one of the most consumed cold drinks in Turkey. Ayran is basically a cold salty yogurt drink. When made at home, plain yogurt is diluted and shaken with water, and salt is added to the mixture.
Turkish people drink it with meals or as a refreshment during hot summer days. You can find bottled ayran everywhere in Turkey, from restaurants to shops and markets.
Ayran goes perfectly with meat, chicken, and, of course, kebabs. It’s not so common to drink ayran with seafood; when it comes to seafood meals, the glasses are reserved for our old friend rakı, but more on that later.
While ordering ayran in a restaurant, you can be offered two options. If it’s homemade, or mixed in a machine in the restaurant, it’s called “açık ayran” in Turkish. These machines mimic the traditional way to make the more buttery yayık ayranı that’s served with a thick layer of foam on it.
"Açık ayran" is usually more delicious than the second option, which is the bottled ayran called “kapalı ayran.”
Famously known as “lion’s milk” due to its distinct white color when mixed with water, rakı is an alcoholic drink with a unique taste that combines aniseed flavors with distilled grapes.
There are many Turkish brands producing rakı, and each has its fans. Rakı has an alcohol percentage of around 40%-45% and can easily sneak up on first-time drinkers.
Rakı is usually consumed at “çilingir sofrası,” a table full of hot and cold appetizers called “meze,” which are sometimes referred to as Turkish tapas. It’s a common tradition for Turkish people to come together to drink rakı and share some laughs, talk politics, and even sing and dance.
Rakı is served with cold water and ice. You can pour the water into the same glass with rakı or drink it in a separate glass.
If it’s your first time, it’s better to mix it with water because the taste of rakı is really strong. Some people also have a glass of şalgam juice (number seven below) to go with it.
Certain restaurants called meyhane in Turkish provide a special entertainment called fasıl for rakı drinkers. Musicians play popular songs from Turkish and Ottoman classical music in the restaurant and move from table to table, asking for tips. This local music is nothing like Western classical music and is very entertaining.
Try it with your friends or join some Turkish groups in a restaurant, it’s always an unforgettable experience.
Boza is a malt drink dating back to the 8th millennia BCE. It’s made by fermenting grains, usually wheat or millet in Turkey. During cold winter nights, you can hear the peddlers from the street yelling, “booozaaaa”!
Although it’s served cold, it’s highly preferred in the winter months to get warm because it’s a thick, heavy drink with lots of protein and nutrients in it.
Boza has a strong, distinctive taste. It’s an acquired taste, but there are many who like it. It’s served with cinnamon and roasted chickpeas.
“Vefa” is the most famous boza brand in Turkey. You can also make it at home but not as easily as ayran.
Boza is also famous for its positive health effects. Pregnant and nursing women consume boza for its high levels of protein, carbs, and B vitamins. So, you can also try it for health benefits.
Kefir is a fermented milk drink that’s highly beneficial for your health. It’s made from kefir grains, a type of mesophilic symbiotic culture that includes probiotics.
Kefir is famous for defending the immune system and digestive system. It’s also recommended for children and the elderly because of its positive effects on bones.
In terms of taste, kefir is a slightly sour and thicker version of ayran, but it’s still refreshing. Usually served cold, kefir is also popular among people watching their weight as it’s a filling, healthy drink.
Unlike ayran, you can find kefir in various flavors. So if the taste is too strong or sour for you, you can drink a sweetened fruity version.
7. Şalgam Suyu / Turnip Juice
Şalgam suyu is fermented turnip (red carrot) juice. There are two types: acılı (hot) and acısız (plain). It’s mostly consumed with kebabs, especially tantuni (a kind of meat wrap), and also with rakı and fish.
Şalgam suyu is a digestive drink. Since you’ll definitely eat a lot when you see the irresistible foods in Turkish cuisine, you’ll need something to help you digest.
Şalgam suyu tastes salty and sour at the same time. For those who like it spicy, hot pickle juice (brine) is added to the fermented turnip juice.
It’s unlike any other drinks you’ve tried before. It’s a bit like pickle juice but not completely similar. You should definitely try it if you like pickles or salty drinks.
Turkey’s rich culture is also reflected in the variety of drinks that Turkish cuisine offers. Besides the best drinks mentioned above, you can also try various traditional sherbets and fruit juices. Particularly the southeast region of Turkey is a gastronomic heaven, with various herb and plant sherbets to try.
Enjoy your visit to Turkey, and don’t forget to try these amazing drinks throughout your journey!