Drinking in Turkey and Greece



May-June 2013 protests in Turkey. Istanbul.

You might be surprised that drinking alcohol is allowed in Turkey. However, the state and religion are separate. The state is secular although the majority of Turks are Muslims. In the past you bought alcohol from special government shops (Tekel shops) although beer (lager), wine and raki were available in restaurants and cafés. Now it seems the government wants to restrict the sale of alcohol, which was why protesters were holding up beer cans in one of the recent protests in Turkey. It’s not that they particularly want to drink beer; it’s just that they don’t want any of their hard-won rights to be eroded by the government.


A bottle of Efes Pilsen beer from Turkey. Credit: Fredrifj

Efes Pilsen is an award-winning Turkish beer and one which has been in existence for more than thirty years, as I was drinking it when I was living there in 1985 and it was still going from strength to strength when I was in Turkey last year. The raki is stronger, I think than the Greek ouzo, and it is advisable to do what the Turks do, which is to eat slices of fruit with it. Turkish wines are also good and I can thoroughly recommend them. These you can buy almost anywhere along with beer and so on. The more expensive foreign booze can be bought in the Tekel shops, which also sell foreign cigarettes and tobacco.


A bottle of Mythos beer (lager). Credit: Phyrexian

In Greece they drink wine, Greek beer such as Mythos, tsipouro and ouzo usually, although you can get virtually any alcohol there. Tsipouro is a little like ouzo, although some doesn’t have the aniseed flavor added, and that is pure firewater. (Ouzo is like Pernod, but a clear liquid, until water or ice is added, and then it turns cloudy)


A carafe of tsipouro with a glass.Credit: Klearchos Kapoutsis from Santorini, Greece

Like their neighbours the Turks, Greeks tend to eat while drinking and get a tad worried when foreigners quaff away without eating. In café-bars you will be given nuts or potato chips to snack on, while in the traditional cafeneions you can expect other morsels with bread to soak up the alcohol. These are cheap, so don’t worry too much about the bill.


A taverna on the island of Naxos, Cyclades, Greece.
Credit: Heiko Gorski (Moonshadow)

You have to remember that in both countries you pay for your drinks when you have finished and want to leave. It’s best to keep count of how many you have had so that you are not surprised at the end of the night! In many tavernas they will offer you a free beer or glass or wine to lure you into the taverna, and you may even get a free half a carafe of the house wine if there is a small group of you. I once overheard a waiter (Andreas in the Plaka Taverna, Plaka, Athens, Greece) say to customers as he gave them the bill, “The wine is free. It’s the water you pay for!” He meant the bottled water he had given them. Tap water is fine in Athens, and you can ask for that instead of bottled water if you want to! It comes with ice and is free. You pay a cover charge at restaurants and tavernas which may be disguised as “bread” (psomi) on the bill, so I guess it doesn’t matter.

About lynnee8

I have travelled extensively both for business (I am a teacher and teacher-trainer of English as a Foreign Language) and pleasure. I have just come back from Pakistan where I lived for 4 years. I love Greece and have lived there for more than 10 years although not all at one time.
This entry was posted in eating and drinking, Greece, Travel, Turkey and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Drinking in Turkey and Greece

  1. senelslant says:

    Big fan of Efes and their wines have come a long way in the past 5-10 years. Thanks for sharing!


  2. Abbas says:

    Yes i have a very bad experience of strong Raki in Turkey, can’t get up from hotel bed for even drink water for two days.


  3. lynnee8 says:

    You should treat raki with the utmost care!


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