Turkey and Alcohol: What is Turkish Drinking Culture?

Throughout the world, Turkey is known for their traditions and hospitality. These two especially developed due to several reasons such as historical factors and religious practices of Islam. When it comes to their way of thinking or mindset, Turkish people can be seen as controversial or traditional. Does this apply to their drinking culture? So, let’s explore the Turkish drinking culture and see how acceptable it is to drink alcohol in Turkey.

Table of Contents

Do Turkish People Drink Alcohol?

Yes and no. In the past or today, Turkish people have always drunk alcohol and will continue in the future. Regardless of age, you can find anyone drinking something in a pub or meyhanes in Turkey. The ones who prefer not to drink any alcohol are people with strong beliefs or have a condition. 

How Do Turkish People See Alcohol?

Alcohol is seen as a drink to have a deep conversation and get close with people you drink together among Turkish people. That’s why meyhanes are so popular and have a great impact on the social traditions of Turkey. Just like neighbors gather at one’s place and drink tea together while talking, it is the same for alcohol. 

Religion’s Effect On Drinking

Turkish people are Muslim and they follow the practices of Islam. In Islam, drinking is strongly inhibited and there’s a rule that a drink should not be alcoholic more than 2%. Otherwise, that beverage is considered alcoholic and it’s haram to drink it. However, even though 77% of Turkish people see themselves as Muslim, not every one of them follows the rules of Islam strictly. So, it won’t be a big surprise to see bars, pubs, and meyhanes crowded at night time in Turkey.

What do Turkish People Drink?

Turkish people have several favorite alcoholic beverages when it comes to drinking. Here are several examples of them:

  • Turkish Rakı
  • Boza
  • Beer
  • Wine
  • Vodka
  • Gin
  • Tequila
  • Whisky
  • Cocktails

Turkish Raki

Turkish raki or “Lion’s milk” is the national alcohol of Turkish. It is an aniseed sprite that’s drunk together with water. The alcohol percentage of raki is around 45%. Although raki is always available in bars or pubs in Istanbul, locals like to drink it in meyhanes as a tradition. Due to its cultural significance and effect, raki is not drunk for having so much fun but having a great time with friends with a bit of melancholy.


Boza is another traditional Turkish drink and has a history of alcohol even though it doesn’t today. The fact that lactic acid fermentation as well as alcohol fermentation happens in boza while it has an ethyl alcohol percentage lower than 2% makes it considered a non-alcoholic beverage.

In the 17th century, during the Ottoman reign, boza had two different types: sweet and sour. The sweet one had little alcohol and the sour one had high. People who drank sour boza were considered alcoholic. Moreover, it took a lot of work to distinguish between sweet and sour boza. For that reason, it was banned strictly several times during the reign of several sultans. Today, boza is produced under 2% ethyl alcohol and it is considered halal.


Beer is the most classic beverage that you can see anybody anyone drinking in the streets of Istanbul. Whether you are passing a pub, bar, or meyhane, you will see a bottle of Efes or just a glass filled with beer.


Wine is mostly drank by women in the world and this applies to Turkish women as well. According to a survey, 49% of women prefer wine while it is only 15% among men. The most drank wine is red, then white, and rose.


Similar to other countries, Turkish people either shot vodka or make cocktails with it.


Gin is preferred among locals when it is time to enjoy the environment and conversation. If taken as a shot, it means that you want to have fun tonight. If as a cocktail, you want to get mellow while having fun with your friends.


Tequila is drunk among Turkish people for one purpose: “Let’s have some fun and get drunk tonight!”. When you are at a party or a pub, if you see a group of people having tequila, understand that they will have a great night.


Throughout history, whisky is not the first preferred alcohol among Turks. There are several reasons such as its price and the environment it creates. Whisky is seen as a luxury and, thus, not closely related to the public. For example, even today’s Turkish soap operas show whiskey as a rich family’s main alcohol drink.


Cocktails are more popular among Turks under 40. Older generations prefer to drink their alcohol as plain as possible and would rather not to try new things that they may not like. 

Brief History of Alcohol Consumption in Turkey

Before Islam, Turks would ferment horse milk to produce an alcoholic drink called “Kımız” in Turkish, known as kumiss in English. However, it wasn’t a strong beverage as its lowest alcohol percentage was 1%, highest was 3%. Now, kumiss is not in mass production and is not consumed generally.

When Turks got into Anatolia, they started drinking both beer and wine. After Turkish raki was found, it started to form a specific culture within meyhanes. As famous Ottoman explorer Evliya Çelebi wrote in his notorious travelogue, there were “numerous meyhanes in Istanbul”. However, because of sour boza and the influence of Islam, some sultans banned alcohol consumption and shut down or demolished many meyhanes in their time. Nevertheless, people kept on drinking without abiding by the laws.

Now, with some specific regulations and inspections, everyone above 18 can drink whatever they want in Turkey.

Is Alcohol a Part of Turkish Cuisine?

If we only talk about Turkis rakı, yes. Because rakı has a special spot in both history and culture, there is even an unspoken rule called “Rules of drinking rakı” among the locals. Other than that, cuisine techniques such as using wine as a sauce or marinade are not a part of Turkish cuisine. The same goes for any cuisine practices that involve alcohol usage.

If such techniques were used, most people would not rather to go that place thinking that the food will be “haram” for them. Even though the percentage of Muslims has declined over the last decade or Turkish people are okay with moderate amounts of drinks, they wouldn’t go to a place thinking that it will be bad for their afterlife credit.

When Do Turkish People Drink Most?

Turkish people love celebrating, sometimes they can drink to celebrate a certain thing or just because they want to. Here are all the times when Turkish people love drinking:

  • To have fun
  • To socialize
  • To get to know someone better
  • To relieve stress
  • To celebrate birthday or anniversary
  • To celebrate a new job
  • After someone gets their first salary at work
  • Just because

Where Do Turkish People Drink Most?

Most of the time, you will see Turkish people drinking at out. Bars, pubs, or meyhanes are essentials for their nightlife. You can always find a vacant spot and even make new friends by striking up a conversation after it’s late enough. If you already have Turkish friends, they would love to invite you for a drink at their place because it’ll be more comfortable and affordable.

Recently, drinking at parks has been banned by the government because it’s thought that alcohol disturbs people around the area. However, you can still grab a beer from the nearby tekel and drink it on the streets.

What Are the Alcohol Restrictions in Turkey?

There are several rules about alcohol in Turkey that every citizen must obey:

  • You have to be at least 18 years old to buy alcohol.
  • Licensed sellers can not sell alcohol before 6 AM.
  • You can not buy alcohol after 10 PM.
  • You can not drink alcohol in public parks.
  • Alcohol cannot be sold less than 100 meters from schools and mosques.
  • Alcohol can not be sold in dormitories, healthcare buildings, stadiums or indoor sports halls, educational buildings, coffee houses, bakeries, and fuel stations.