Drinks in Turkey: 5 Traditional Turkish Drinks You Can’t Miss! 2023

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Curious about the best Turkish drinks? Let me introduce you to 5 that you should try while you’re in town.

Every culture has drinks they are known for. The culture can range anywhere from a city like Miami with the Cafecito to a national drink like Vodka in Russia.

Regardless of how big the culture is, they often have a drink that is special to them.

Turkey is no different. While Turkish coffee is probably the most well-known around the world, I would dare to bet that it isn’t the most popular beverage among Turks.

But the most well-known is definitely not the most loved by the Turks.

When I first got here, I was not a fan of one of their favorite drinks but I have completely adapted and it is now one of my favorite drinks after 4+ years living here.

Maybe you don’t know where to even start though…if so, let’s take a look at these 5 popular drinks in Turkey.

As you read, can you guess which is the most popular?

1. Turkish Coffee – a most traditional drink

Turkish Coffee in a traditional tulip painted cup with a small turkish delight on the side.

Turkish Coffee can be found in many different varieties, which I will compare in another post coming soon!

What sets Turkish Coffee apart is how it is made not the beans it uses.

It is an important part of Turkish culture. So much so they have a saying about it. 

“Bir kahvenin 40 yıl hatırı vardır.” A coffee remembers for 40 years.

It means that it doesn’t matter how insignificant your favors feel, there will be a day that you’ll receive kindness from the person you have helped. 

The grounds are special because they are ground so fine that they are like powder.

Turkish Coffee is so important that in 2013 UNESCO added it to the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list.

Cezve - Turkish Coffee Pot - hanging at an outdoor market
This popular Turkish drink is made with a special pot called a Cezve.

The first “coffee shop” called Kiva Han was reportedly opened in Constantinople (Istanbul) in the 1470s.

When you purchase it at a local restaurant, you can order it three ways with regard to sugar.

Sade = without sugar Orta şekerli = medium sugar Tatlı = sweet

Turkish coffee setting on a wooden platter in a restaurant
It is typically served with a piece of Turkish Delight and a small glass of water.

To make Turkish Coffee, the water, coffee grounds, and any sugar that is desired are brought to a boil in the Cezve.

It boils until it froths but before it boils over and is then poured into a coffee cup called kahve fincanı.

Because the coffee grounds are boiled with water and poured directly into the coffee cup, you will have lots of grounds in your coffee.

As tempting as it may be to drink immediately, let it settle.

After a few minutes, your coffee grounds will settle to the bottom of your cup and you will be able to enjoy the lovely taste of a strong cup of coffee.

2. Salep – best Turkish drink during the winter

a white mug of salep that is dusted with cinnamon and a couple of cinnamon sticks on the side.

Second, on our list is Salep which is a flour made from tubers that come from Orchids.

This Turkish beverage dates back to the ancient Romans and was known by them as an aphrodisiac because the shape of the plant quite resembles male genitalia.

It was believed for a long time that it could restore virility and passion in men.

a field of orchids on a sunny day.
Salep is made with flour from orchid tubers.

This flour is not only used to make this hot drink but also used in baking and tasty treats like ice cream and pudding.

Unfortunately with the rise of consumption, we have begun to see local extinctions of these beautiful plants in parts of Turkey.

Man selling Salep on street from a traditional copper container on a rolling cart
A man with his street cart selling salep.

Along with the extinction of so many orchids, it has become increasingly more difficult to find genuine Salep, and has even become illegal to export it.

Thus, when you see Salep in the store, it is more likely than not to have artificial flavoring.

Real Salep is a milk-based drink with a thick consistency, almost like pudding, and is often sprinkled with cinnamon and nuts.

When you find it on the streets, however, it will be much more like a milky drink that is dusted with cinnamon.

It is also only seen on the streets during the winter months, though can be purchased at some coffee shops year round.

So if you happen to find yourself wandering through Istanbul on a winter’s day, make sure you do so with a Salep in hand.

3. Rakı – the national Turkish alcoholic drink

A small plate of fruit, a glass of raki and a glass of water on a stone wall.

Raki is to Turkey as Vodka is to Russia. (Who said that SAT prep would never come in handy).

It is an alcoholic drink made from twice-distilled grapes and anise, giving it a strong black licorice flavor.

So if you are one of those people who like that, this may be the drink for you!

While it isn’t my go-to, I have definitely grown used to the flavor after enough evenings eating fish and drinking Turkish raki. 

a demonstration of how Raki turns white when water is added
Raki is a clear liquor but when water is added, it turns a cloudy white color.

You can find this drink or something very similar in countries throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East.

This drink is served in tall shot glasses and rarely drunk neat. It is typically served neat and equal parts cold water is added to the Raki by the customer.

Anise seeds spilling out of a wooden spoon on a table
It is made from twice-distilled grapes and anise.

While it can be drunk with any meal or at any time like any other spirit, it is known to be paired with fish.

You will often hear of people doing a “Balık ve Rakı akşamı” where they will go to a nice fish restaurant and drink Raki with their delicious fish and mezes.

Though you can also often find a Turkish beer at a fish restaurant they aren’t as popular on this occasion. 

It is believed that the Raki takes off the harsh flavor of some fish.

But be careful because it isn’t for lightweights.

If you haven’t thought about gifts yet, a small bottle of raki along with these other 20 ideas for great gifts.

Keep an eye out for a new post coming soon about Turkish wines which are quickly becoming quite popular as well.

4. Tea – Turkish black tea

A man carrying the traditional carrying tray of Turkish tea to be distributed to the patrons

Turkish tea is drunk throughout the day, all day. Regardless of who you’re with or what you’re doing, çay often follows.

Every Turkish restaurant will offer it after your meal. It is quite popular in Turkey among the Turkish people. 

*Note this is not “chai” like the spice latte type drink. Turkish çay is a black tea.

While drinking tea is definitely not unique to Turkey, Turkey is actually known to have the world’s highest per capita consumption of tea in the entire world.

Though to be fair, the UK is a close second.

Turkish Tea served in a tulip shaped glass on a table with a beautiful sunset in the background.
It is typically served in a tulip-shaped glass with a plate underneath.

Depending on where you go, you will find some that have Bergamont in with the black tea.

You can also find other herbal teas but simple black tea is definitely the most popular.

Also because of the high import fees, most tea is locally sourced.

It is typically brewed in a çaydanlık, a special teapot. There are two sections to the teapot. The hot water is boiled on the bottom and the loose leave tea is in a separate kettle on top.

Caydanlik to serve Tea
Traditionally a caydanlik is used to brew and serve tea and is a Turkish staple in any home.

It is purposefully made strong so that each person can make it as strong or weak as they like.

It is served in tulip-shaped glasses on a saucer with a cube or packet of sugar. Turks will consume anywhere from 4-15 of these a day.

Before your jaw drops to the floor it would be prudent to note that the cups are not the standard American large sizes. These tea glasses are typically between 4-6 oz.

When you order you can specify koyu = strong or literally “dark” OR açık = weak or literally “light”.

It is never served with lemon or milk like in other countries. They will think you are quite crazy if you ask for milk on the side.


5. Ayran – a traditional Turkish yogurt drink

Ayran: Refreshing Drink in Turkey served in a traditional copper mug

Finally, we have our fifth drink…Ayran. Ayran is a popular drink throughout Asia and Eastern Europe.

While it can easily be made at home, it is also easily available in containers on the go.

So what is it? Ayran is a refreshing Turkish, yogurt-based drink. It is combined with water and a touch of salt to make a refreshing and rejuvenating drink.

Throughout Turkey, you will find this drink in its standard form, but you can also find it with Basil, Oregano, or Mint added for a slightly different flavor.

homemade ayran on a table with the blender bit on the side.
Ayran is made by combining water, yogurt, and a pinch of salt.

When I was visiting Turkey for the first time, I tried it with my doner. While I was not impressed the first time I drank it, I have grown to truly love it.

Arguably, I also haven’t eaten a ton of yogurt because of how much sugar there is in it in the States as well as the consistency kind of makes me gag.

In Turkey, however, it is quite different. Of course, you can find yogurt with sugar added but it is the exception instead of the rule here.

on the left is an expmple of acik ayran in a glass with a straw and kapali ayran in a prepackaged container on the right.
You will see it as a drink option everywhere! It will either be kapalı (meaning a boxed/bottled drink) or açık (meaning they do it there and it is served in a glass).

Many of the yogurts here are more akin to what we would think of as Greek yogurt.

I won’t go further into that because it is a hotly debated subject…suffice it to say, that yogurt here is different than in America.

The more I drank Ayran, the more I began to grow a taste for it.

And if the yogurt used contains probiotics, it is even a healthy addition to the meal. My favorite is this one. It comes in a glass bottle and the flavor is perfect.

It is often served with meals, especially when beef is present but is often drunk on its own as well.

Bonus: Turkish Sherbet – another popular traditional drink

This is a non-alcoholic beverage that is enjoyed on hot Turkish summer nights. 

You could of course spike it as it is a sweet, fruity drink and would lend itself to that well. 

This drink hails from the Ottoman days and played an important role in Ottoman cuisine. 

Sherbet is traditionally enjoyed during festive occasions and social gatherings and captures the essence of hospitality that is deeply ingrained in Turkish culture.

It is often homemade by boiling fresh fruit like cherries, plums, and grapes along with some cinnamon, lemon, cloves, and sugar.

After it has chilled completely it is enjoyed by all.

Pin for the blog post about traditional Turkish beverages with a picture of an Ottoman style Turkish coffee cup.

If you guessed tea, you would be correct!

The most drunk drink in Turkey would be tea. Regardless if you’re just waking up or about to go to sleep, you will be offered a cup of tea.

Perhaps because they drink so much tea here, their bodies have become acclimated to the high caffeine levels and can drink it at all times of the day without adverse effects on their sleep.

You can also check out some of the Foods in Turkey that you should try!

Have you tried any of these 5 Turkish beverages?

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Turkey Vacation Basics

When I plan a trip these are the websites I use. Hope they help you plan your next adventure as well!

FLIGHTS: I am a huge fan of Skyscanner and WayAway.

VISAS: You can use the free e-visa portal here but for a few extra dollars you can use iVisa and someone else will handle any issues that may come up.

E-SIM: When I traveled to SE Asia I discovered e-sims and I’m never going back. Airalo has been easy and cheap!

TRAVEL INSURANCE: I use TravelInsurance.com for my trips abroad.

CAR RENTAL: I have loved working with Discover Cars when I rent cars in country.

AIRPORT TRANSFERS: I have used these transfers many times and they are always great. If you’d like more options, I also recommend GetTransfers.com as they allow you to compare companies.

ACCOMMODATION: Find the best Turkey hotel deals on Booking.com.

CITY TOURS & DAY TRIPS: You can browse GetYourGuide’s website to find just the tour you’re looking for!

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