Yeni Raki Global

Brendan: “I Only Drink Rakı”

smiling couple holding up a card in front of a river

​​​Istanbul is one of the subjects that we always talk about and set a rakı table for in Özlenen Muhabbetler. And here is the view of Rotterdam, the city I live in, which I have mentioned in my previous articles, which reminds me of the Bosphorus and where I can drink rakı. The Maas River, which divides the city into two in the north-south direction in the landscape, and the Erasmus bridge connecting the two sides.  My guest in this magnificent scene is dear Brendan. In other words, “foreign groom"😊

Let's put Brendan to the exam, let's see how familiar he is to the rakı culture, but I must admit Brendan is enough to pass all the exams and break records. As you read, you will understand and even cheer for him 😊

A few lines… For example, Brendan usually does not drink much alcoholic beverages, but when he does it is typically rakı. He has been listening to Zeki Müren for years, long before he met his fiancée Zeynep. He likes to have beyran late in the night after rakı.

Let me leave the floor to Brendan without further ado:

Hi Brendan, let us start with raising our glasses from Rotterdam to Istanbul. To your health and şerefe! I know your curiosity about Turkish food, music and history goes back long before you engaged with Zeynep. You have a lot of experience in these subjects by reading, listening, and writing in person. How did this curiosity start and what triggered you?

My personal interest is reading and learning about history and different cultures since my student years. One of the countries that caught my attention has been Turkey due to its geographical location, rich culture, and history. My history teacher at high school used to tell me: "If you want to see ancient Greek and Roman history you should go to Turkey, not Italy or Greece". Since then I have read many books on Turkish history and politics. Of course, after I met Zeynep, I obviously got even more into the Turkish culture. We have visited Turkey many times together, also spending time with family and friends. I have been learning Turkish for a while now to communicate more comfortably with our friends and family in Turkey.

Your interest and knowledge about Turkey make everyone who hears it very happy. At the same time, as a Dutch person you are like “the rakı lover of dreams". Your love for rakı is impressive. I wonder about your first rakı experience. Where and how was it?

In the summer of 2018, I tried rakı on the very first night we met with some of Zeynep's friends in Istanbul. I have tried aniseed-based drinks such as Sambuca and Ouzo before, but it was the first time I tried rakı with a Bosphorus view in Arnavutköy Lipari. When I had other anise-based drinks there was no food involved. However, on that occasion, there was a delicious table set for the sake of rakı, impressive scenery and great music. Dostlarim by Tanju Okan was playing in the background. I was very impressed by the melody. Since then, I listen to Tanju Okan from time to time. Also, the weather was very nice, neither hot nor cold. In warmer countries in southern Europe and Turkey the summer nights are very pleasant and lively. I really enjoyed it.

Your first rakı experience was in the most ideal setting and scenery. The kind of place that I wish to be at when I close my eyes. Of course, thanks to Zeynep who organized this perfect night out.

Yes, I still remember it. Very tasty mezzes, fish and Yeni Rakı. A great view of beautiful and lively Istanbul and the Bosphorus during a summer evening. A nice conversation with friends. We stayed at the restaurant for almost 6 hours that night. Time passed so fast and I was surprised when I checked the time while we were leaving. I met Zeynep's friends for the first time that night, but at the end of the night and as the conversation progressed, I felt like as if we had known each other already for quite some time.

As your first experience was in Istanbul, I can understand that it was unforgettable.

I have never been someone who consumed a lot of alcoholic beverages in my life. During my student years, when I went out, I used to have a beer or two. Since starting my professional career I only have drinks at special occasions, usually beer. However, I just loved the taste and smell of rakı. On top of that, I really liked the atmosphere and traditions surrounding the rakı table. Whenever there is a rakı table, I never say no.

Then, was the rakı table set up every occasion during that holiday?

We attended a wedding two days later. When they asked me what I wanted to drink, I immediately answered with "rakı". When I first tried it in Arnavutköy, I started with a single. At some point on the night of the wedding, I switched to the doubles. Rakı is a strong drink, but having water and some food along with rakı, probably made it easier for me to enjoy it.

The other guests at the wedding were a little bit surprised to see that I was drinking rakı, and all evening they thought I was used to drinking it and some people asked me when I tried it for the first time. It was only the second time.

Congratulations, this is what we are looking for. But the things continued to unfold after the wedding, right? Because it is our habit that after eating and drinking at the rakı table for hours, the night ends up at a soup restaurant. Conversations and food never end.

It was a very interesting and unexpected experience for me. When they told me that we were going to another place after the wedding, I thought we were going to have a quick snack. However, at 3 o'clock in the morning I found myself in a super crowded restaurant. Our orders were raw meatballs, beyran, kebab and ayran. Everything was delicious. I enjoyed it a lot since I generally like spices very much. In the end at 3 o'clock in the morning we had something like a proper dinner. I was very surprising to me of course, because it is not something you typically do in The Netherlands.

Haha it is awesome. It is very nice that you experienced and enjoyed every single moment like a real local. I am cheering for you right now 😊

Sometimes I get a compliment from friends in this regard. Also, I love “ayran". Once we went to Çiya Sofrası and ordered food along with ayran. I kept drinking and ordering more and more ayran. At some point the waiter smiled and already knew that he had to get me another one.

In general, when we Turks come across with a foreigner, especially if that foreigner is the future groom, we insist that they eat and try new things by saying: "eat this, eat that, try this too". You are not a beginner; you started directly from an advanced level. Some of the dishes you have mentioned, such as beyran or lamb, can be even heavy for locals.

You have been a guest on many rakı tables in Turkey and The Netherlands. After all these experiences, how do you drink rakı? Which mezzes do you like?

I drink Yeni Rakı as a double, with water and ice.

The mezzes with yoghurt, pepper and eggplant are very nice. But it is very difficult to choose, because when they come with a tray full of mezzes, the one thing you would want to say is: "leave all of them, I want to taste them all". From the hot mezzes I really like shrimps in butter and fried small fish. At the kebab restaurants I also like to have tulum cheese, hot pita and butter along with my rakı. Turkish cuisine is very diverse, there are a lot of dishes that I have not tried yet, but this is a journey. I am discovering new things every day.  

So, with what type of food did you like rakı the most? Meat-based dishes like kebab or with seafood?

I am a meat person, because I do not like the fish that they serve in The Netherlands that much. However, I like the fish dishes in Turkey and therefore I like rakı with both.

What are your top three favorites?

It is very difficult to decide. Cig kofte (raw meatballs), stir-fried small fish (red mullet, horse mackerel, sardines), spicy shrimps in butter and spicy eggplant salad.

Are there any dishes from Dutch cuisine that you think would go well with rakı?

Bitterballen (fried meatballs).

Hmm, I never thought of pairing this with rakı. Bitterballen is a fried snack with meat filling. It looks a bit like a fried meatball with breadcrumbs on the outside. Similarly, we also have fried hot appetizers. So, it was a good match. I will try this as soon as possible.

Let us get to the subject of music. Who is your favorite Turkish singer?

Zeki Müren without any doubt. I discovered him many years ago when I was in university. I had watched an Iranian movie and coincidentally came across with the Zeki Müren's song "Bir Gülü Sevdim" when I was searching for the movie on Youtube.  Of course, it was not clear to me who sang the song, but I understood that it was Turkish. After checking the comments below the video, I found out that it was Zeki Müren. Afterwards I listened to many other songs of him. Now that I am learning Turkish his songs are very helpful. His pronunciation is very clear, and I like his artistic style a lot. I know you call him “Sun of Art" in Turkey. I think he was very impressive and fascinating.

Apart from Zeki Müren, I now listen to Sezen Aksu, Tanju Okan, Nilüfer, Tarkan and Mustafa Sandal. Tarkan and Mustafa Sandal were very popular in the 90's, and even in The Netherlands I came across with them. Of course, I did not understand the lyrics at that time. Now I understand that Mustafa Sandal sings about things like cars. Zeki Müren is still my favorite.

By that time, you did not speak Turkish. Without understanding the meaning of the songs, how did you feel when you listened to Zeki Müren songs?

I think his songs are very mysterious and intense. Discovering his songs and listening to them was like an adventure for me. I obviously guessed that the melodies of the songs express intense emotions, for example love stories without a happy ending. When I improved my Turkish, listening to his songs became even more enjoyable. As I said before, because of his clear pronunciation it is easier to understand what he says. By listening to his music, I also practice my Turkish 😊

<3. My last question is; how would you describe rakı to a stranger?

I think rakı is much more than food and drinks. You get into a joyful mood when you are around a rakı table with your friends or family. It is a traditional experience with delicious mezzes, great music, and good conversations. Regardless of the time, there is always food on the table. Beer, wine, or whiskey are drinks that you can easily drink while watching tv on your own or together with other people. However, the way that I see it, the rakı culture and drinking Yeni Rakı is something that goes beyond that. It is something that you will only enjoy with your loved ones and delicious food


s. Thank you so much for being my guest. Let us have one more sip from Rotterdam to Istanbul, to all the good memories and many more…​