A Traveler’s Guide to What to Drink When Visiting Istanbul
If you’re someone who’s been bitten by the travel bug, a trip to Istabul, Turkey is a must! When you’ve finally made the trip and are visiting Istanbul, you have to wet your whistle with these amazing drinks – some drinks are alcoholic, some are not. All of them are delicious!
Istanbul is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, attracting over 32 million people in 2017. With a rich culture, historical landmarks, beautiful mosques, and awesome views, it’s no wonder visiting Istanbul is such a popular choice for tourists.
And one of the best parts about traveling, in our opinion, is indulging in the local food and drink.
Istanbul, in particular, has a wide variety of local beverages. Let’s go over some Turkish drink delicacies you have to try when visiting Istanbul.
Turkish tea is essentially black tea. The flavor of the tea isn’t brand new; you’ve likely had black tea before.
Tea is such an important social part of Istanbul culture that you have to partake while you’re there to get the full Turkish experience. Most people in Istanbul drink it black without sugar, but this could be too strong if you don’t drink tea that often.
You can ask for some sugar cubes to make it a bit sweeter, but you might want to skip asking for milk. Milk and tea don’t usually mix in Istanbul; if you want to fit in with the locals, keep it straight.
Chances are you’ve heard of Turkish coffee before. Turkish coffee is almost like an espresso: it’s strong and dark. You’ll either order it sade (no sugar), az (a little bit sweet), orta (medium sweet), or sekerli (very sweet).
It’s made with a very particular method that has made it well-known around the world. Ground coffee and the requested amount of sugar get boiled in filtered water a special copper pot called a cezve.
When a thick foam starts to form, some of the foam transfers into the coffee cup. The heat is then turned off and the coffee goes into the cups.
As with tea, it isn’t customary to drink Turkish coffee with milk or cream, so get ready for some thick, rich, dark coffee. Watch out for the grounds at the bottom as well.
Ayran is a liquid yogurt drink. This might not be the best tasting drink to those of us who aren’t used to it: it combines yogurt, water, and salt. It is either made fresh in cafes and restaurants or packaged in supermarkets.
Many people pair Ayran with meat dishes, but it is a treat on its own. While this might be a somewhat acquired taste, it’s worth trying out when you’re visiting Turkey. It is a traditional and cultural beverage you probably won’t see elsewhere.
If you’re looking for something a little sweeter than a salty yogurt drink or intense strong coffee, the local drink boza could be for you.
Boza is a fermented beverage made from bulgar, millet, and/or wheat durum. It’s one of the oldest and most classic drinks in Turkey, dating all the way back to BC times. It’s most commonly enjoyed during the winter, but you can find it year-round if you look hard enough.
Once the main part of the mixture ferments, water, sugar, and cinnamon are added. It creates a rather thick drink that has a sweet and tangy taste.
Now that we got the classic non-alcoholic options out of the way, let’s move on to some Turkish alcoholic drinks. This travel destination has a drink known as Raki, which is the national alcoholic drink in Turkey.
Raki is anise-flavored, so if you aren’t a fan of licorice, you might not love it. However, it’s worth a try because it’s the drink most associated with Istanbul.
It’s served with water and ice, which gives it a milky or chalky look. That’s where its nickname “Lion’s milk” comes from.
This is a hard liquor, so it might be best for at night with appetizers or during a weekend in Istanbul, if you know what we mean. Try out the brands Tekirdag and Yeni if you want some of the best Raki available.
Cracking open a cold beer at dinner is one of the simple pleasures of vacation. The good news for you is that Istanbul has some great Turkish beer you can sample while visiting.
Efes Pilsen is probably the most popular beer in Turkey. It’s so popular that it’s usually available in bottles, cans, and on tap in most restaurants or bars in Istanbul.
It’s described as light, crisp, and carbonated. Efes Pilsen is perfect for a summer dinner outside or warming up after a long day of travel.
While Turkish wine isn’t as well known as the wines of France or Spain, the local wine culture is rich with delicious options you can try.
Calkarasi Rose consists of the calkarasi grape that’s native to Turkey. This rose has the classic crisp freshness with an added mineral flavor unique to this grape. It’s fruity and delicious, which goes perfectly with a vacation feel.
You can also try a Pasaeli Merlot if you’re looking for an amazing red wine. It blends a combination of merlot grapes and the rare Turkish Karasakiz grape for a beautiful tart, acidic wine that has both earthy and sour flavoring.
Visiting Istanbul? Be Sure to Try These Drinks!
Turkey is full of amazing sights and cultural dishes that you have to try out. From the seeing the famous Hagia Sophia to taking a sunset cruise along the Bosphorus strait to trying out local delicacies, Istanbul will keep you busy while you’re visiting.
When you work up a thirst while visiting Istanbul, you can try out one (or all!) of these local drinks. Going for a Turkish coffee to wake you up in the morning, an ice cold Efes Pilsen at lunch, and some raki at dinner seems like a pretty awesome time if you ask us.
If you’d like some more travel info or tips on what food to try while abroad, check out our blog.
We’ve also got you covered with tips and tricks on how to stay on budget while traveling.