History of Raki

There are different suggestions on the etymology of the term raki (Turkish: rakı).  According to one story, the term raki is derived from the Razaki type grape which is has large, long and thick-shelled grains. The similarity between the pronunciation of razaki and raki terms and the definition of raki as a Turkish alcoholic drink strengthen the possibility that raki terms is derived from this type of grape. 

On the other hand, some believe that “raki” term was produced by Turkmens in Iraq and derived from the word “Iraki” meaning spread out to neighboring countries and therefore used to mean “coming from Iraq”. This suggestion is further supported with the fact that the drink produced from dried grapes and flavored with anise in Kirkuk Region is still called “Arak”. The alcoholic drink made by the Turkic tribes in Central Asia by distilling kumis (Turkish: kımız) and named as “Arika” today is most similar drink to the raki we know.

The term “arak” meaning “sweated” in Arabic is considerable in understanding the etymology of the term raki. Some researchers suggest that “arak” meaning drop of sweat stands for distilling and distillation, as well and thus “raki” term is derived from this word.

Even though there are no certain documentations evidencing where and by whom raki was first produced, it is accepted by almost every country in the world that raki was first produced on Ottoman soils. 

In the 5th century, an alcoholic drink similar to raki was detected in the East-Roman Empire. This alcoholic drink, the recipe of which the Turkish people learned in the 11th century, was introduced to Anatolia and Rumelia by mostly Bektashi descent people. Not prohibited during the Ottoman Empire and fondly consumed by non-Muslim communities in the taverns and pubs run by non-Muslim people especially in the 19th century, raki has reached its modern characteristics in time getting blended with the palatal delight of people living on these soils.

Despite there are records of ouzo being first found and drunk in Istanbul in 19th century as told in the brief history of the drink on the back of the bottles, the modern characteristics of Turkish Raki today cannot be found in Greek raki Ouzo and Eastern drink Arak.

Sold as Turkish Raki all around the world today, raki is represented as a Turkish alcoholic drink in almost every encyclopedia. Turkey, being on the first rank among raki producers in the world, exports raki to tens of countries especially Germany, United States and China.

Inhabiting Turkish soils and cheering up tables for centuries, raki has created its own culture along with its nature.