Raki is a traditional Turkish alcoholic beverage. First of all, I would like to write about the sociologic role of raki. Raki is not just a booze. You don’t drink it in a couple minutes in a pub. It is an occasion for friends to come together, eat and chat for hours. It is generally consumed in dinner, together with special hors d’oeuvres (meze) and food for raki. There are two glasses per person on the table: one is for raki, and the other is for plain or mineral water.
Raki is made of grapes and anise. The smell of anise is very dominant. If you are not used to it, it may disturb at first; but after the first glass you would like it. Raki is 40% or more alcohol, hence it is strong and should be drunk diluted with water. Generally 1/2 raki and 1/2 water is preferred, but starters may dilute it more. Considering the second glass with water; some people prefer to drink raki straight. Raki is poured in the glass first, then water, and at last 2-3 ice cubes are added.
The major food with raki is feta (white cheese – beyaz peynir). Take a bite from the feta, and bread if you like, swallow and take a sip from raki and water at last. If raki is still too strong for you, eat more as you drink.
There are many hors d’oeuvres available, mainly vegetables with olive oil and sea food; the waiter would bring samples in a large tray at the beginning, you can choose as you like.
Then you may order hot hors d’oeuvres; calamari, stewed shrimps, etc.
As the main course, seasonal fish or kebabs are preffered. But some people prefer hors d’oeuvres only.
The dinner is generally finished with seasonal fruits and Turkish coffee.
Best places in Istanbul for raki are the restaurants in Beyoglu Nevizade, Cicek Pasaji, Asmalimescit and the ones under the Galata Bridge (on the Golden Horn).