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Traditional Turkish drinks are a huge part of the local culinary culture. There is a considerable variety of drinks ranging from fermented drinks, juices, tea, and the famous UNESCO-recognized Turkish coffee.
While exploring the local food specialties in Turkey, now known as Türkiye, we were amazed by the wide variety of traditional drinks.
The traditional drinks steeped in history had their own unique taste and traditions.
On your culinary travels to Turkey, make room for traditional Turkish drinks.
While not exhaustive, here are 12 of the most popular traditional Turkish drinks you don’t want to miss.
Traditional Turkish Drinks Non-Alcoholic
1. Salgam or Şalgam – Turnip Juice
Salgam pronounced “shal-gam,” is a fermented turnip juice and one of the most famous traditional Turkish drinks.
Turnip is one of the main ingredients though the drink requires other ingredients and an elaborate process to make it.
The preparation of Salgam involves the fermentation of turnips, purple carrots, water, sugar, salt, and other ingredients.
This fermented process takes approximately two to four weeks for the drink to be ready.
Although the origins are uncertain, this Turkish drink is most famous in the Adana region. It is consumed with kebabs like the famous Adana kebab and is available either spicy or mild.
The first time we tried Salgam was at a kebab restaurant. At first sip, we found the taste unusual, with spicy, salty, and slightly acidic flavors.
This pickled turnip juice is said to settle the stomach after eating fatty meats.
We didn’t love it at first, but later grew to appreciate the taste and, importantly, its health benefits.
Considered a probiotic food, Salgam regulates the digestive system and contains many vitamins and minerals like vitamins B1 and B2, Iron, Potassium, and Calcium.
Aside from kebabs, this pickled turnip juice is consumed alongside Raki, softening the effects of this strong alcoholic beverage.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: One of the best ways to taste many of these Turkish drinks is on a food tour with a local guide. If your travels take you to Istanbul, see our guide to the 9 Best Istanbul Food Tours To Indulge In Authentic Turkish Cuisine
2. Sherbet – Fruit Juice
Sherbet is a delightfully refreshing traditional Turkish drink. A popular and delicious drink from the Ottoman Empire, it continues to be enjoyed even today.
Turkish Sherbet is made from fruit juices, flowers, and herbs like rose, lemon, sandalwood, orange, pineapple, and mango.
Sugar and water are added to create a sweet syrup, and the Sherbet is served cold with extra water to dilute the syrup.
During the month of Ramadan, Sherbet is typically consumed during the fast-breaking meals.
We tried Sherbet for the first time on a food tour in Izmir and loved its sweet and refreshing taste.
Tamarind-flavored Sherbet was one of our favorite types of Sherbet. Not too sweet and with citrusy notes, this particular Sherbet was a traditional beverage at the Ottoman Palace.
Rose syrup Sherbet is another popular variety worth trying.
Turkish Sherbet, made with fruits and spices, is a refreshing and healthy drink to try in Türkiye.
3. Çay – Turkish Tea
Turkish black tea is one of the icons of Turkish cuisine. Traditional Turkish tea is a black tea cultivated in the eastern Black Sea region of the country.
Deeply embedded into the local culture, tea is heavily consumed in the country. When talking to locals, we learned that Turkish people can drink up to 15 cups of tea daily.
Turkish tea is brewed in a double teapot known as çaydanlık. This stacked Turkish teapot has a smaller pot for loose tea and a larger pot for additional boiled hot water.
The tea is served in small, narrow-necked, or tulip-shaped glasses to preserve the heat and flavors.
Drinking tea is a social activity. Throughout our stay in Turkey, tea was constantly offered. Whether we were shopping or eating at a restaurant, Turkish tea or çay, was always offered.
The emergence of the Turkish tea drinking is often associated with the Silk Road, when tea houses would welcome weary traders, with a hot cup of black tea.
Others point to the formalization of tea plantations in the 20th century, which propelled the consumption of tea in daily Turkish life.
Today, Turkey is one of the world’s biggest consumers of tea, and Turkish tea will undoubtedly be a part of your experience in the country.
4. Salep or Sahlep – Milky Orchid Drink
Salep, also spelled Sahlep, is one of the most unusual Turkish drinks you don’t want to miss.
It’s a warm winter drink made from the powder of wild orchids tubers, mixed with hot milk and sugar and topped with a sprinkling of cinnamon.
When we first tried Salep, we were surprised by its mild taste. On a cold evening, it is quite warming, though the texture is thick enough to warrant using a spoon.
Salep is also used in the preparation of Dondurma, or traditional Turkish ice cream.
Wild orchids in Turkey, unfortunately, face extinction, with some saying that it is due to the Turk’s love for ice cream.
The government has banned the export of orchids, and ongoing efforts exist to preserve the plant.
In Turkey, you’ll find Salep available everywhere for sale in the winter months. Though be aware, that the quality of Salep varies greatly.
When the price is low, we learned from locals the quality of orchid powder has probably been mixed with cornstarch or something else.
Salep made from pure orchid powder, is costly. While we don’t advocate for depleting natural resources, Salep is a Turkish drink worth tasting at least once on your Turkey travels.
Pay a little more for your Salep and taste a tradition that dates back to the Ottoman Empire.
5. Boza – Fermented Millet Beverage
If your travels take you to Turkey in the winter, you don’t want to miss Boza, one of the oldest and most unusual Turkish drinks.
In Turkey, Boza is commonly made millet, though you’ll also find this fermented drink made with fermented wheat or bulgur.
The fermented drink Boza is thick and chilled and topped with cinnamon and crunchy roasted chickpeas.
The unique taste is sweet with tangy flavors. We first tried Boza while exploring local food specialties in the Balkans and loved it.
We also enjoyed Boza in Turkey and in particular, the wonderful crunch of the roasted chickpeas that we hadn’t had before.
Boza is said to have many nutritional benefits for athletes and pregnant or nursing women.
You’ll find this traditional Turkish drinks widely available in the cooler months.
6. Churchill or Çörçil – Turkish Lemon Juice
Churchill was one of the most fascinating non-alcoholic drink we discovered in Turkey.
What intrigued us most was its origins and how it got the name “Churchill.”
Curchill, locally known as Çörçil, is a refreshing juice made by mixing lemon juice with salt and adding sparkling water, known as soda in Turkey.
While the recipe is simple, attention is given to the amount of mineral water, salt, and lemons used to create the perfect flavor.
Churchill is quite a refreshing drink on a hot summer day. While the addition of salt may seem strange, the rehydrating benefits and tangy sweet taste make this Turkish lemonade quite appealing.
While never got to the bottom of the name, we learned anecdotally that its name was inspired by Winston Churchill, who was popular in Turkey in the early 1900s.
As Churchill was known to like whiskey, the non-alcoholic Churchill drink was a restorative drink to fight hangovers.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: For tastes of Turkey at home, consider getting Turkish Snacks with Turkish Munchies shipped directly to your home. See our review of receiving a Turkish Munchies box Turkish Snacks Unwrapped: Is Turkish Munchies Box Worth It?
7. Turkish Coffee
In 2013, UNESCO inscribed Turkish coffee in the Unesco List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
This was the first cultural drink to be a part of this list, underscoring the importance of coffee in Turkish culture.
The preparation and serving of traditional Turkish coffee have remained unchanged for centuries. These are some of the main features that make Turkish coffee so special.
The coffee beans are ground to powder and then added to a copper pot called “cezve” and cold water.
If sugar is desired, it is added at this stage and never afterward, as it will stir up the ground coffee.
Traditional Turkish coffee is meant to be sipped slowly, and there is a tradition of fortune-telling with the grinds.
Turkish coffee is an acquired taste and one that, unfortunately, neither of us acquired.
The coffee is strong, but it pairs quite well with Turkish Delight to counterbalance the intense tastes.
8. Ayran – Turkey’s Non-Alcoholic National Yogurt Drink
Ayran a popular beverage is considered Turkey’s non-alcoholic national drink.
It is a salty yogurt drink made with only three ingredients; yogurt, water, and salt.
Ayran is a refreshing Turkish drink in the hot summer months. It’s also a popular drink to accompany lunch or dinner.
At Kebab Turkish restaurants, Ayran pairs particularly well with meat dishes.
In Turkey, you’ll find two types of this traditional Turkish drink. You’ll find Ayran commonly available in prepackaged formats at supermarkets and restaurants.
The other type is a homemade version known as Acik Ayran. This version is made fresh and served with a frothy top.
And, the homemade Ayran has a more sour taste than the prepackaged Ayran.
Either way, Ayran is quite tasty, and I developed a special soft spot for this popular Turkish drink.
Be sure to pair homemade Ayran with your kebab and meat dishes in Turkey.
9. Tursu Suyu – Pickled Juice
Pickle juice, or Turşu Suyu, is a traditional Turkish drink made from pickled vegetables and fruits.
In Turkish cuisine, pickling vegetables is a popular way to preserve them. The leftover brine from the pickling process is used to make Tursu Suyu.
We tried Tursu Suyu on a food tour in Istanbul made from the brine of pickled cucumbers.
Though, you can also find juice made from other pickled vegetables like carrots, beets, or cabbage.
The taste is tangy and quite salty and one that takes some getting used to. In Turkey, Tursu Suyu is an important part of Turkish life and the local food culture.
A healthy drink, a glass of Pickled Juice is used to help alleviate stomach problems like indigestion or bloating.
While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, Tursu Suyu is a great way to experience a traditional aspect of Turkish cuisine and culture.
10. Pomegranate Juice
In Turkey, the pomegranate fruit is much more than a fruit.
Known as “Nar” in the Turkish language, it is considered a symbol of fertility, prosperity, good fortune, and luck.
The simple Pomegranate juice made from squeezed pomegranates is found throughout the country.
You’ll find juice stands at the local markets, at juice vendors, and also at some casual eateries.
Have the Pomegranate juice, which we loved. Or if you prefer, the street vendor can also combine it with apple juice or orange juice.
Besides juice, Pomegranates are also used in Turkish cuisine. They are used to make a delicious and thick pomegranate molasses sauce used as a salad dressing.
A nutritional powerhouse, Pomegranates are considered a superfood. Packing vitamins and anti-oxidants, they also offer heart-health benefits.
Easily available and affordably priced, add more nutrients to your diet with Pomegranate juice in Türkiye.
Turkish Alcoholic Drinks
11. Efes – Turkish Beer
Efes beer, brewed in Turkey, was founded in 1969. It is one of the most popular beer brands in Turkey and is today sold in more than 70 countries.
The name Efes is said to have been inspired by Ephesus, once the most important ancient Greek city.
Efes beer is brewed in Izmir, which is in the same province as the ancient ruins of Ephesus.
An award-winning beer, Efes Pilsener is the most popular alcoholic beverages and one that I enjoyed.
I found it to be light, but not too light, well-balanced, and a refreshing drink.
Besides Efes Pilsner, you’ll also find Efes Dark, Efes Malt, Efes Xtra, and others.
You’ll find beer sold at supermarkets and some bars and restaurants.
As Turkey is a Muslim country that discourages alcohol consumption, beer is subject to regulations and restrictions.
That said, you’ll find Efes beer easily in larger cities, and it is one of the most popular Turkish drinks.
12. Raki – Turkiye’s National Alcoholic Drink
Raki is considered Turkey’s national drink and an integral part of Turkish culture.
Turkish Raki is a clear brandy made by twice distilling grapes or raisins and then flavoring the resulting alcohol with aniseed.
When Raki is mixed with water or ice cubes it turns milky-white in color, which is why it is sometimes called “Lion’s Milk.”
This traditional Turkish alcoholic beverage is typically served in a tall cold glass, with equal parts added until it turns milky white.
Raki is traditionally enjoyed with Meze, which are small plates of appetizers and snacks.
You’ll find Raki at traditional Turkish restaurants known as Mehaynes. When you order Raki, you’ll get one glass of Turkish raki, one glass of cold water, and a bucket of ice cubes.
Generally, Raki is sipped slowly. It’s a strong drink, and a little goes a long way.
The origins of the word Raki are not entirely clear. It is believed to come from the Arabic “arak,” which means distilled.
Turkish Raki shares similarities with Greek Ouzo which is another anise-flavored alcoholic beverage.
As one of the most popular Turkish drinks, don’t miss the opportunity to sip on Turkish culture.
FAQs – What You Should Know About Turkish Drinks
What Is the Popular Drink in Turkey?
Raki also known as Lion’s Milk, is the national drink of Turkey and very popular among the locals.
What Drinks Do Turkish People Drink?
Some of the most popular Turkish drinks enjoyed by all are Turkish black tea, Turkish coffee, and Ayran.
Do They Drink Alcohol in Turkey?
Yes, alcohol is consumed in Turkey, though as a Muslim country, it is restricted in certain areas due to cultural and religious reasons. The sale of alcohol is legal though heavily regulated. Despite the restrictions, alcohol is consumed particularly in the urban areas.
Traditional Turkish drinks are as unique and diverse as traditional Turkish food.
Some of the Turkish drinks will be easy to find, while others depending on the season, you may have to hunt down.
By sipping on these traditional Turkish drinks, you’ll immerse yourself in the local culinary culture.
Have you had any of these Turkish drinks before? Please let us know which ones in the comments below.
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Claire is co-founder of Authentic Food Quest and a lover of simple and exquisite cuisine. Since 2015, with her partner, Rosemary, she has been traveling the world as a digital nomad, creating content about local food experiences.
Her advice from visiting 45 countries and more than 240 food cities has been featured in Lonely Planet, Business Insider, Honest Cooking, Food Insider, and Huffington Post. She has also co-authored three books, including one in collaboration with Costa Brava Tourism.
An ex-mechanical engineer, Claire is responsible for SEO, keeping the website running, and the fun food & travel videos on YouTube.
When Claire is not eating, she can be found running or cycling. Find out more about Authentic Food Quest