The 5 Drinks You Have to Try in Istanbul

Erin West
17 March, 2015

If you want to have a truly Turkish experience when visiting Istanbul, avoid your tendency to rush around and cram every minute with sight-seeing. Like the Turks do, block out some time to just relax. Whether you’re sitting down to gaze at the Bosphorus or people watching in a hip cafe, it’s best to have a drink in hand. Not sure what those drinks should be? We’re here to help.

1. Rakı

The national alcoholic beverage of Turkey will not disappoint. This hard alcohol goes down easily because of its anise flavor. Liquorice haters, try it anyway. I promise you’ll like it after the third glass! Pour water in it and watch the clear liquid turn white... Where can I find it? Rakı is traditionally drunk with meze, meaning appetizers. For a lively evening, order meze and Rakı while sitting outside at one of the restaurants on Nevizade Sokak. 

See Also: What's meze?

2. Ayran

Cold yogurt and water mixed with salt is definitely an acquired taste for most westerners, but Turks love it. McDonalds even sells their own version in Turkey. Where can I find it? Ayran is best paired with meat dishes. Choose any small kebab seller on the street, wash your meal down with this drink, and feel like a real Turk.

3. Çay

To be honest, Turkish tea is just like any other black tea. Add a cube or two of sugar and it’s quite good, but drinking tea in Turkey isn’t really about the taste - it’s about the experience. Drinking Tea in Turkey is a social event and a time to relax. Where can I find it? A great place to sit back and sip cay is the Pierre Loti Cafe. After quite a climb to get there, this high-up cafe has a stunning view of the Golden Horn. 

4. Coffee

Turkish coffee may look like a dark espresso, but its unique brewing process has made this drink world-famous. Finely ground coffee beans are boiled with sugar just until foam appears on top. When you get to the bottom of your cup, flip it over and read the picture made by the grounds on your saucer! Where can I find it? For a pick me up when you’re tired from walking endlessly around Beyoğlu, Mandabatmaz is famous for perfecting the art of Turkish coffee. (It’s so good, this cafe has a fan club!) 

See Also: What are the top 10 best cafes in Istanbul?

5. Salep

This drink is exclusive; it’s only sold in the winter months! If you’re in Istanbul when the temperature drops, don’t miss out on this sweet milky drink sprinkled with cinnamon. Orchid roots were the original thickeners, but you’re more likely to encounter corn starch these days. Don’t worry- it tastes exactly the same! Where can I find it? Cozy up in any Kahve Dunyasi and if the salep’s not enough, grab one of the other hundred treats they offer to satisfy your sweet tooth. There’s one right across from the Kabatas bus/boat/tram stop.

Food Beverages Local Culture Listicles
Erin West

Girls’ school graduate turned globe trotter, Erin is spending her gap year in Istanbul. She keeps busy learning Turkish and inhaling figs like nobody’s business. Check out some of her adventures on

comments powered by Disqus