6 Best-Known Raki & Arak Brands To Try


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Much like ouzo, both raki and arak are anise-flavoured spirits with an incredible history dating back to the 9th century. The best raki and arak brands are well worth discovering, all packed with that distinct anise-flavoured liquorice kick.

Arak is the national drink of Lebanon but is also drunk in Syria, Jordan, and Iraq. The Turkish picked up on this spirit and named it raki, making it their own and spreading raki throughout their empire.

Drinking raki or arak is more of a ceremony, with drinkers adding water to produce the characteristic louching (reminiscent of ouzo or absinthe). The resulting white liquid is known as the “milk of lions” to the Lebanese.

Best Raki & Arak Brands

Here are six of the best Turkish and Lebanese raki and arak brands that encapsulate the soul of this anise-based Middle Eastern spirit.

1. Yeni Raki

Yeni Raki
Credit: Yeni

Overview

  • Distiller: Yeni
  • ABV: 45% (90 Proof)
  • Country: Turkey
  • Colour: Clear

Review

Following the Great Depression, the Republic of Turkey took raki production out of private hands. It established the government monopoly, “Tekel,” in 1931.

Yeni is a Turkish raki distilled from fresh grapes and raisins (rather than pomace) to make the base spirit. It is then re-distilled with anise to achieve the desired flavouring, much like sambuca.

Taste Notes

Yeni raki reveals a complex and fruity black anise flavour, spreading warmth through the back of one’s throat. It also displays the characteristic louching when mixed with water.

Best Served

Yeni raki is best served as shots with ice water to complement mezze or try it in cocktails such as a Raki Sour.

Pricing & Info

You can check the latest pricing, product information, and order online.

2. Tekirdag Raki

Tekirdag Raki
Credit: Tekirdag

Overview

  • Distiller: Mey
  • ABV: 45% (90 Proof)
  • Country: Turkey
  • Colour: Clear

Review

During the 60-year monopoly of Tekel on Turkish raki production, they introduced various styles of raki to the market, including this fresh grape raki.

Tekirdag is a Turkish raki distilled entirely from fresh grapes to produce the suma, which is then re-distilled with anise to introduce a characteristic flavour similar to ouzo.

Taste Notes

This raki displays a smooth texture, with a prominent aniseed flavour balanced by fresh citrus and spice and a fruity finish.

Best Served

Tekirdag raki is best served as a shot with ice water to complement mezze or main meals or in a Rakoni cocktail (the Turkish cousin of the Negroni).

Pricing & Info

You can check the latest pricing, product information, and order online.

3. Smyrna Fresh Grape Raki

Smyrna Fresh Grape Raki
Credit: Smyrna

Overview

  • Distiller: Smyrna
  • ABV: 43% (86 Proof)
  • Country: Turkey
  • Colour: Clear

Review

In 2008, Volkan Keskinoglu established United Spirits of Mediterranean to import Yeni and Tekirdag raki and Buzbag wines from Turkey to the US. They now also import Smyrna fresh grape raki from the town of Çeşme near Izmir (ancient Smyrna) in western Turkey.

Smyrna Fresh Grape is a Turkish raki distilled from 100% fresh white grapes and re-distilled with anise to produce the characteristic flavour.

Taste Notes

This raki offers silky smoothness and fresh grape fruitiness complemented by a burst of anise that warms the palate and lingers nicely.

Best Served

Smyrna Fresh Grape raki is best served as a shot with ice water to complement mezze. Also, try it in cocktails, such as a pomegranate lemon raki punch.

Pricing & Info

You can check the latest pricing, product information, and order online.

4. El Massaya Arak

El Massaya Arak
Credit: El Massaya

Overview

  • Distiller: Massaya & Co.
  • ABV: 53% (106 Proof)
  • Country: Lebanon
  • Colour: Clear

Review

In 1990, following the Lebanese Civil War, the Ghosn family set about rebuilding their family estate in the Beqaa Valley in eastern Lebanon.

El Massaya Arak is a Lebanese arak triple distilled from Obeidi grape wine in a wood-fired copper still, and macerating aniseed for flavour, re-distilling, and resting the spirit in clay amphorae for months.

Taste Notes

This arak shows a palate-cleansing freshness, complex fruitiness, and strong anise flavour. It displays the characteristic louching when mixed with water.

Best Served

El Massaya Arak is best served as a shot with ice water (two parts water to one part arak), spicy mezze, or a pomegranate-blood orange mojito.

Pricing & Info

You can check the latest pricing, product information, and order online.

5. Efe Raki Klasik

Efe Raki Klasik
Credit: Efe

Overview

  • Distiller: Efe
  • ABV: 45% (90 Proof)
  • Country: Turkey
  • Colour: Clear

Review

When Tekel’s monopoly on the production of raki in Turkey ended in 2003, Efe became the first independent producer to start distilling raki. The brand has become a leader in the field, with a range of distinctive raki.

Efe Raki Klasik is a traditional Turkish raki made by triple distilling grape juice and then re-distilling the resulting suma with anise to produce the characteristic flavour.

Taste Notes

This raki is smooth and rich, with a burst of black anise on the palate and herbal overtones in the smooth finish.

Best Served

Efe Raki Klasik is best served as a shot with ice water to complement mezze or in a cocktail such as an Ottoman Bazaar (with passionfruit puree and orange juice).

Pricing & Info

You can check the latest pricing, product information, and order online.

6. Arak Le Brun

Arak Le Brun
Credit: Le Brun

Overview

  • Distiller: Le Brun
  • ABV: 53% (106 Proof)
  • Country: Lebanon
  • Colour: Clear

Review

In 1868, French immigrant François-Eugène Brun set up Domaine des Tourelles winery in the Beqaa valley. The Brun family ran this estate for three generations before handing it over to Elie Issa.

Arak Le Brun is a Lebanese arak triple distilled in an alembic from grape wine, re-distilled with green anise, and rested for a year in clay amphorae.

Taste Notes

This arak showcases complex, fruity, fresh grape notes and an intense burst of anise leading to a long, refreshing finish.

Best Served

Arak Le Brun is best served as a shot with ice water to complement mezze. You can also try it with pink grapefruit juice – citrus generally complements arak well.

Pricing & Info

You can check the latest pricing, product information, and order online.

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Ingrid’s Top Pick

best raki brands

Yeni Raki

My top pick is Yeni Raki because this traditional raki has plenty of anise liquorice flavours with subtle hints of fruitiness.

Enjoy it neat (as it’s not too overpowering at 45% ABV), or mix it with water to dilute the kick and watch the contents of your glass cloud nicely.

Conclusion

raki and food on table

In all the societies where raki or arak are found, these drinks are a social glue, drunk at meals of tapas-like mezze. People celebrate weddings or work promotions with raki; on the flip side, they commiserate after breakups and job losses.

Although raki (and its cousin arak) may seem one-note at first sip, the best raki brands ensure subtle complexities of this superb spirit that reward exploration.

Both raki and arak form the perfect complement to spicy Middle Eastern food, the centrepiece of any social occasion, and work surprisingly well in cocktails. Try them for yourself!

Raki & Arak Q&A

Raki neat and raki with water

What Is Raki & Arak?

Raki and arak are both anise-flavoured grape spirits, although arak tends to be the more potent. Grapes or grape pomace (leftover skins, stalks, and seeds) are distilled into a neutral spirit and then typically re-distilled, sometimes in column stills but usually in pot stills.

Makers then mix the distillate with anise and dilute it with water before slowly re-distilling to impart those unmistakable aniseed flavours.

As raki and arak benefit from resting, distillers place the anise-flavoured spirit into clay amphorae and let it rest for several months to a couple of years before bottling it.

What Does Raki & Arak Taste Like?

Both raki and arak taste strongly of anise, or in other words, like sweet black liquorice. Depending on the brand and its production, distinct herbal or fruity overtones may be present.

What Foods Pair Best With Raki & Arak?

Raki and arak both suit strongly-flavoured foods. Indeed, raki and arak shots complement the spicy cuisine of the Middle East with their garlic, cumin, and olive oil flavours. They also work well with grilled meats and fish.

Is Raki & Arak The Same As Ouzo?

Raki, arak and ouzo are all quite similar, but don’t call one by the other’s name! The Greeks and the Turkish are bitter rivals, and suggesting that their drinks are the same is a recipe for war. While Turkish raki served as an inspiration for ouzo, there are differences.

They’re made similarly, and all are flavoured with anise. But ouzo and raki are generally no more potent than 45% ABV (with a legal minimum of 37.5%). In contrast, arak tends to be a little stronger.

Moreover, ouzo generally contains more sugar than raki and may use other spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, clove, fennel, coriander, mint, and mastic, producing a more complex flavour.

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