Those who follow these witterings with any regularity will know that I enjoy a drop or two of rakı in the evenings. My taste-buds became attuned way back when we first migrated to Turkey. I still recall clearly the initiation process. There I was with a couple of local gentlemen who set out two glasses in front of me. One glass was half-filled with the colourless liquid then, as I watched, water filled the other glass before it was added to the rakı and the magic began. As the spirit mysteriously turned white my host turned to me, beat his chest and boomed ‘Aslan süt!’ – Lion’s milk! The die was cast!

Back then, 1997, the state-owned Tekel company produced the goods and the tax was non-existent. A bottle cost next-to-nothing! All that changed after Tekel was privatised and our government began to harden its attitude towards alcohol consumption. Taxes began to rise until today they represent an eye-watering 80% of the retail price. From pennies to 100+ lira in the space of a little over ten years for a litre of rakı is no laughing matter!

What is a chap to do? The answer is that ‘When in Rome . . ‘ Turks are amazingly inventive and creative, They know how to turn any situation to their advantage. You only have to think about how quickly the verges of a new by-pass are turned in to rows of stalls/restaurants/farm shops. ‘In every situation lies the seeds of an equal or greater benefit’ to quote some positive-thinking author or other.

And so it was that I was introduced by a friend to something many Turks have been doing for quite some time – making my own and saving a pretty penny or three. I’m not here to encourage anyone else to do this – if you too want to know how to turn out 2.25 litres of excellent rakı in the space of a couple of hours for just under 30 lira per litre then contact me individually. Here’re some photos of the ‘kit’.

spring water, aniseed oil, a little sugar, ethanol/ethyl alcohol, mixing jar

the end product – 2.25 litres of excellent tasting rakı


In case you are worried, I didn’t go blind from moonshine and here’s the sunshine to prove it!

Alan, wondering what to spend my tax rebate on!

ps With so many Turks going down this path, foreign tourism down, Turks taking holidays in Greece in ever increasing numbers, now the minister responsible for these taxes has said that they are far too high on booze, tobacco and cars. Is a reduction likely? Don’t hold your breath!

20 thoughts on “Moonshine!

  1. Hi Alan. We have been making Potcheen for ever on the West Ciast of Ireland. It’s made from potatoes and to me tastes exactly like Raki. Glad you have found a way to ‘spread the tax load’ it’s certainly very high now in Turkey. I don’t drink much but have noticed how high it is compared to 20 years ago, but there is so much better health care for all in Turkey now, it’s all a balance about taxes. A lot of drinkers moan about it on the Forums but not about the high cost of booze here in the UK. Enjoy !!!!! Mary

  2. Resourceful people, the Turks, as you say.
    Illicit guaro is the rule here…..mine comes from my lawyer…

  3. Alan, You are a resourceful genius! Amazing what they drive us to. We are getting so spoiled here in Spain by the incredibly and delicious cheap wines, sherry, port, brandy and the imported whiskey, the temptation is drink as much as you can before you have to go home. Thanks for the contribution to staying sane in trying times. Love to you and J. M and J

  4. Yes I would like your recipe for home made rakı. Bought the alcohol some weeks ago and only today stumbled across your blog. Despite dire warnings from various friends I think I might try it.

  5. Go Alan Go!!!
    So funny to read this today…a colleague of mine was talking to me about our team in the Istanbul bureau working on a feature on people making homemade RAKI. Seems to be an important activity these days. We got on the topic of making special things at home when I asked if anyone in the Istanbul bureau has done on a story on making Baklava. I just love the stuff and am currently pigging out on a container of it that someone just brought over from Lebanon. Do you make Baklava at home by any chance? Gotta have something to soak up the Raki, don’t you?
    If I were ever to try to make the local brew here (wine), I would have to dedicate the rest of my life to it — such a complicated process and important business for Italians. But I do love the result.

    1. Good evening Trisha, lovely to hear from you after your interesting trip. Neither J or I have a sweet tooth so we don’t ‘do’ baklava. We do love Künefe however and you should get your Istanbul colleagues to send you some. As for the ‘moonshine’/bootleg rakı you should ask them to keep it quiet because if the sultan gets to hear about it you can guarantee the restrictions will go on the raw materials. We also have a contact at the famous Pamukkale Wine producer a couple of hours drive from here where we buy at ‘farm-gate’ prices (incl VAT of course)!
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