J Is For Juniper

J is nothing if not resourceful. She was rather envious when, as regular readers might recall, I was able to slash my booze bill by about 80% by mixing my own rakı. I know she was envious because I saw the green flashes of Sauron behind her beautiful grey eyes!

Anyway, not to be outdone she began her research into the quaintly named ‘botanicals’ that give various gins their unique flavours. Her position was that if all it took was some aniseed essence to flavour my rakı then a similar principle should apply to ‘making’ gin. She was not wrong.

This being Turkey with its amazingly varied climate and geography sourcing the herbs and/or spices she’d need would be easy.  She collected juniper berries which are essential, coriander seeds and prepared some candied orange and lemon peel – candied to supply a little sugar.

juniper in the wild 

and fit for purpose

coriander seeds – you may wish to crack them to better release the flavour

citrus peel steeped in sugar water and awaiting  oven drying

Once these ingredients were ready she half-inched one of my bottles of ethanol. She then steeped the ‘botanicals’ in boiling water for 24 hours before making the quantity up to the same ratio I use for rakı (1.25:1), by adding the ethyl alcohol. The whole is then left to develop for a number of days. J advocates testing every few hours by sniffing and tasting (of course) until you have the intensity you desire. Then she drained the liquid through a sieve to remove the debris and bottled the resulting spirit.

I have to tell you her stuff is the business! She keeps it in a fancy gin bottle to impress any visitors unlike my rakı which is chugged out of what amounts to a milk bottle!

not Hendrick’s but the ‘Real McKöy’  (bit of an ‘in’ joke – sorry)

Truth to tell, using the ethyl alcohol which is freely available here in Turkey you can have all sorts of fun experimenting with different ‘botanicals’. Pretty much anything goes so why not give it a go. Here’s a chart that will help you choose the flavour you seek.

You can check out the kit and process I use for rakı here

Happy Daze, A&J

'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'


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!