Anise flavored drinks are not popular in America — they get a bad rap here. But the reasons for such distaste are usually misguided.
Most people are turned off by hearing the words "black licorice" regarding the flavor while in the case of the most famous anise liqueur, absinthe, untrue tales of hallucination are a deterrent. This is a shame because anise flavored drinks are a delightfully refreshing and delicious way to get your drink on. If imbibed the way the Turkish (and most other countries) make it — with water — then the drink would be a hit.
The Turkish anise drink is called raki and at Cazbar in Downtown they sell a popular brand called Yeni Raki. Cazbar's owner Haluk Kantar summarizes the drink by using Yeni Raki's slogan: "Raki is the answer; I don't remember the question …" The unofficial drink of Turkey, raki is made similarly to grappa, the traditional Italian brandy, in that it is made from grapes. But unlike grappa, it is then infused with herbs to give it raki's distinctive taste.
The raki is served in a glass that is fitted into a metal cooler called an ehlikeyf, as well as a glass of ice water. Raki is clear by itself, but like most anise-flavored spirits turns a milky white color when mixed with water. The water is instrumental to the success of the drink depending on how weak or strong you want your drink. Add more water for a weak drink and less for a more anise-y shot to the taste buds. Once the water is added the drink is called Aslan Sütü, which translates to "Lion's Milk." It's meant as a drink for the brave, but I can guarantee that even if you are a coward, a few drinks of this wonderful elixir will have you roaring like a lion in no time.
How to make a Aslan Sütü (Lion's Milk)
2 oz. glass of Yeni Raki
1 glass of ice-cold water
Mix the water into the raki to your desired potency. Drink and enjoy.
Where to get it:
316 N. Charles St., Downtown
Glass of Yeni Raki and water, $8Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun