What to Drink in Istanbul

The most common drink in Istanbul is tea (cay), which is normally served black in small, tulip shaped glasses. It is offered to you wherever you go: in shops and bazaars, and even in banks and offices.

Breakfast is usually accompanied by tea, whereas small cups of strong Turkish coffee (kahve) are drunk midmorning and also at the end of meals. Cold drinks include a variety of fresh fruit juices, such as orange and cherry, and refreshing syrup-based sherbets.

Although Turkey does produce its own wine and beer, the most popular alcoholic drink in Istanbul is raki, which is usually served to accompany mezes.

Soft Drinks

Bottled mineral water (su) is sold in corner shops and served in restaurants everywhere. If you are feeling adventurous, you may like to try a glass of ayran, salty liquid yoghurt. Boza, made from bulgur wheat, is another local drink to sample.

There is always a variety of refreshing fruit and vegetable juices available. They include cherry juice (visne suyu), turnip juice (salgam suyu) and sira, a juice made from fermented grapes.

Coffee And Tea

Turkish coffee (kahve) is dark and strong and is ordered according to the amount of sugar required: az (little), orta (medium), or cok sekerli (a lot). You may have to ask for it especially, as some restaurants may give you instant coffee. The ubiquitous drink is tea (cay). It is served with sugar but without milk, and in a small, tulip-shaped glass. Apple (elma), is the most popular flavour, but there are also linden (ihlamur), rosehip (kusburnu) and mint (nane) teas.

Alcoholic Drinks

The national alcoholic drink in Turkey is raki – “lion’s milk” – a clear, anise-flavoured spirit, which turns cloudy when water is added. It is drunk with fish and mezes. The Turkish wine industry produces some good reds and whites, served in many restaurants. Doluca and Kavaklidere are two of the leading brands. Foreign and imported wines are widely available at high prices.

Turkey’s own Efes Pilsen beer is widely sold. Note that alcohol is not served in some of the cheaper restaurants and kebab houses.

Turkish Breads

Bread is the cornerstone of every meal in Turkey and comes in a wide range of shapes and styles. Besides ekmek (crusty white loaves) the other most common types of Turkish bread are yufka and pide. Yufka, the typical bread of nomadic communities, is made from thinly rolled sheets of dough which are cooked on a griddle, and dried to help preserve them. They can then be heated up and served to accompany any main meal as required. Pide is the type of flat bread that is usually served with mezes and kebabs in restaurants. It consists of a flattened circle or oval of dough, sometimes brushed with beaten egg and sprinkled with sesame seeds or black cumin, that is baked in an oven. It is a staple during many religious festivals. In the month of Ramadan, no meal is considered complete without pide. Another popular bread is simit, a crisp, ring-shaped savoury loaf that comes covered in sesame seeds.
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