Do Turkish People Drink Alcohol? Our Laws, History, and Culture

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Recently one of my international friends asked if he could find alcoholic beverages in Turkey and do Muslim Turkish people could consume alcohol freely.

International friends of mine assume that there is no drinking habit in our culture because the majority of Turks are Muslim.

Alcoholic drinks are widely consumed by the Turkish People. If you are above 18 years old, drinking alcoholic beverages is legal in Turkey.

Especially in western Turkey and coastal areas, drinking is more common, and as usual, drinking tables create great conversations and pleasant moments in family or friend gatherings.

I believe this article will enhance your understanding of Turkish culture. There are many interesting facts most foreigners do not know about Turkey.

If you want to know more about Turkish laws, culture, and the history of alcohol consumption, please continue reading.

1. Do Turkish People Drink Alcohol?

According to OECD, Turkish people drink around 1.5 liters of alcohol per capita every year.

Turkish people consume less alcohol than English, Americans, and Mexicans do. However, alcohol consumption is way higher compared to Islamic countries like Indonesia.

Here is the table, which I directly embedded from the OECD Website.

Alcohol consumption increases in metropolitan areas and decreases in conservative rural areas.

However, the least conservative and more modern Turkish western regions have significantly higher alcohol consumption per capita. Source.

Best way to drink like Turkish people is to try drinking raki in the traditional way.

Raki is known as the Turkish national drink. It is tradition that raki should be accompanied with vegetable tapas (mezes), fish, and friends to enjoy.

The Turkish word ‘drink’ means “içki” in the sense of alcoholic drinks. ‘İçki sofrası’ means “drinking table,” where people come together and drink alcohol served with ‘meze’ to accompany alcohol. 

Raki is often served with ‘meze’ in ‘içki sofrası’ accompanied by friends and family members. Toasting with raki in typical raki glasses is essential to a drink table.

Raki is only drunk with special raki glasses. Check out these raki glasses on Amazon to see unique raki glasses.

2. Alcohol Laws in Turkey

Drinking alcohol is legal in Turkey as long as you are above the legal age limit of 18.

Since the foundation of the Turkish Republic, drinking alcohol has been free in Turkey. Alcohol was banned only for a brief period before 1924, during the Turkish Independence War.

Drinking on beaches and public places is usually allowed in coastal tourist destinations like Kusadasi and Didim. Yet, drinking on the streets of metropolitan cities like Istanbul and Izmir is not allowed.

Additionally, non-commercial drivers like tourists and regular citizens have a limit of 0.5 per mille of alcohol when driving in Turkey. 

It’s the younger me having a festive time with seafood and rose wine.

3. Legal Drinking Age in Turkey

You should be over 18 years old to buy and drink alcoholic products in Turkey. Additionally, alcoholic products cannot be served or sold to anyone under 18 years old.

Most pubs and restaurants will let you enter with your children. Yet, some entertainment facilities may not allow children inside.

4. Is Alcohol common in Turkey? Is it hard to buy Alcohol?

Alcohol is common in Turkey, and it is easy to buy. More than 150,000 stores, including supermarkets, sell alcohol in Turkey. Source

In most cities like Izmir and Istanbul, or holiday destinations, you can find a shop where you can purchase alcoholic drinks at every corner.

Yet, in more conservative small cities and rural towns, you may have difficulty finding a shop selling alcohol.

Due to low demand and religious reasons, some restaurants and bars may close during Ramadan.

Alcoholic Beverages section in Manisa 5M Migros, one of the biggest supermarket chains in Turkey.

5. Is Alcoholic Drink Freely Available in Turkey?

Alcohol is sold through licensed supermarkets, markets, or shops.

Yet, you need to be more planned and buy your alcohol before 10 PM. You can only buy alcoholic products between 6 AM and 10 PM.

On the other hand, this ban only covers the buying of alcohol. You can still enjoy your drink in restaurants, bars, hotels, or other licensed entertainment facilities.

These facilities can serve alcohol 24 hours a day without any restrictions.

You can drink in public as long as you are in restaurants, bars, hotels, or any other licensed entertainment facility, but street drinking is uncommon.

Online Shopping for Alcoholic Drinks is seen as a promotion of drinking habits, for this reason it is banned by law in Turkey.

Turkish people have strong stereotypes, especially in Europe. Learn more about Turkish physical and cultural characteristics as well as Turkish history by reading Are Turks White Caucasian? Who is a Turk?

A Glimpse to Turkish Raki Brands

6. What is the Turkish National Alcoholic Drink?

Turkish Raki is accepted as the National Turkish Alcoholic Drink. 

Raki is an anise-flavored drink and can be classified as brandy with 40-45% alcohol. Rakı turns white when water is added. For this reason, it is also called Lion Milk.

Yeni Raki is the oldest raki brand in Turkey. Efe and Tekirdag raki brands are known for their quality raki brands. The other two most popular raki brands are Izmir and Beylerbeyi.

These raki brands produce many types of Raki and categorize them according to their distillation techniques.

For new tasters, I would advise Beylerbeyi Blue, Tekirdag, or Efe Green (made with fresh grapes.). They have a smoother taste.

Beer stands in a Turkish supermarket.

7. Popular Alcoholic Drinks in Turkey

The most common alcoholic drinks are beer, raki, vodka, and wine.

According to Mey (the biggest alcohol producer in Turkey), 58% of Turkish people mostly drink beer, and 31% choose Raki as their main alcoholic drink.

Furthermore, 5% of Turkish People consume mostly vodka, and 2% drink wine. Source: Hürriyet Daily News

Beer is widely preferred among alcoholic drinks in our country. Most well known Turkish beer brands are Efes Pilsen, Bomonti, and Marmara34.

Efes beers are the most popular Turkish beers.  Turkish Efes is also Europe’s 5th and the world’s 10th largest brewer by production volume. 

The biggest competitor to Efes is Tuborg (Danish beer). Tuborg is the second most consumed beer in Turkey. Efes and Tuborg are known for their quality.

Turkish wine shelves in a Turkish supermarket.

Despite rising alcohol prices, wines are gaining popularity each year. Turkish wine consumption and production continue to increase every year.

The Turkish wine industry continues to grow with many national wine brands, such as Kavaklıdere, Doluca, Sevilen, Diren, and Kayra.

My Local Pub, Lobby in Manisa

8. Do All Turkish People Drink Alcohol?

According to the Turkish Statistical Institute, 74% of Turkish people never consumed any alcoholic drink. Yet, the Turkish Statistical Institute is famous for not being good numbers, especially in financial matters.

Turkish Statistical Institute research suggests that %50 of Turkish men aged between 25-74, %90 percent of Turkish women aged between 25-74 never consumed alcohol.

Other private-sector surveys reveal that around 20% of Turks drink alcohol regularly. Source

As a Turkish who lived mostly in the western part of Turkey, I could not believe the low numbers found by this research, so I did my own poll.

I went into Reddit and asked Turkish Redditors if they use alcohol or not. 570 Turkish Redditors answered my poll. Here are my results.

What is the frequency you consume alcohol?VotesPercentage
2-3 times a week254.5%
Once a week397%
Once a month13524%
I never drink alcoholic beverages34660%
My Reddit poll about Turkish Redditor’s alcohol consumption.
Efes Pilsen is the most famous Turkish beer.

9. Are Alcoholic Drinks expensive in Turkey?

Alcohol is getting more and more expensive every day due to increasing government taxes. A can of beer (half a liter or A pint) is 1,2 USD in Turkey.

When I first wrote this article, you could buy only 246 cans of beer with a standard worker’s monthly wage in 2020. Today, July 2023, the situation continues to be similar.

Alcohol prices are also putting pressure on Turkish consumption of alcohol, yet it is still consumed by many.

Maybe you are also wondering if Turkish people are eating pork. For a comprehensive answer, check my article “Eating and Finding Pork products in Turkey”.

Ottoman officers enjoying themselves and their drinks. The picture was taken at the end of the 19th century.

10. History of Turks and Their History of Alcohol Consumption

10.1 Ancient Times – Turkish Cultural Origins

Turkish culture is influenced by many cultures. In fact, Turkey is a melting pot of different European and Asian cultures. However, ancient Turkic culture’s influence is still deeper than the other cultural influences.

Turkic culture has its roots in Middle Asia.

For this reason, the Turkish language and culture share common ancestry with Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Chinese Uyghurs.

Even though Turks migrated to the west about one thousand years ago, Turkic people can still understand each other.

For example, I can read Kazakh, Uzbek, or Turkmen newspapers and understand the subject easily.

Fun Fact: The Turkish Language also shares common ancestry and grammatical similarities with Hungarian, Finnish, Korean and Japanese languages. You can check my article on the Turkish Language and its Origins to learn more about Turkish and Turkic Languages.

10.2 Turkish Alcohol Consumption in the Ancient Times

Now, after the brief history part, I can tell you about the history of Turkish alcohol consumption.

As I said above, Turkish people are descendants of Turkic nomadic tribes who are indigenous people of Central Asia.

In ancient nomadic times, the Turkish people used to drink “Kımız” (Kumis in English), which can also be defined as milk wine. This fermented milk contains %1-%3 alcohol.

At that time, there was no age limit for drinking Kimiz; even newborns were fed with Kimiz.

Kimiz was also accepted as a cure for many illnesses.

We also know that ancient Turkish people were also skilled in beer and winemaking.

Other descendants of Turkish people are the native people of Anatolia, who were also fond of drinking.

Most ancient Anatolian statutes carry wine cups in their hands rather than swords or any other weapon. (Source)

10.3 Islam and Turkish

The first reaction of Turkish people to Islam was fierce. There were many battles with Umayyad Caliphs who believed in Arab Supremacy and Turkish people.

Turks converted to Islam when Abbasid Caliphs overthrew the Umayyad Caliphs.

The Turks converted to Islam only when the Caliphs accepted Turkish culture. This is why Turkish people protected their culture when they converted to Islam.

Unlike Turks, many other cultures that are native to the Middle East, like Egyptians, lost their cultural values when they accepted Islam and became Arab.

Like my high school teacher, many Turkish historians believe that Islam culture diminished some of the qualities of Turkish culture, like gender equality and alcohol consumption rate.

Yet, Islam religion did not change the core of Turkish culture. For this reason, most Turks are seen as light Muslims by Arabs.

SUGGESTED READING: Is Turkey an Arab Country?

Old picture depicting traditional taverns in Istanbul with music and belly dancing.

10.4 Ottomans and Alcohol Bans

In the early years of the Ottoman Empire, there was no alcohol ban. It was common for Sultans to drink alcohol even though they carried the title “Caliph.”

As the Pope holds the authority to lead the Catholic world. Turkish Sultans had the title Caliph, which means they were the spiritual head of Islam.

Turkish sultans inherited the title of Caliph after they conquered Egypt in 1517.

However, at the beginning of the 20th century, the Caliph title was seen as an obstacle against secularism and was abolished after the founding of the Turkish Republic.

There were some instances of alcohol bans in the middle and late eras of the Ottoman Empire, but they were short-lived and mostly practiced in Istanbul rather than throughout the Empire.

The alcohol bans were ineffective as they were only mandatory for Muslim citizens.

However, the bans on Muslim society had no chance to succeed because non-Muslim societies living side by side with Muslims were consuming alcohol freely.

To understand Turkey’s differences from other Muslim countries, you may want to read my article “Why is Turkey a First World Country?”

10.5 After the Turkish Independence Wars

Only one time in history, in 1920, the modern Turkish Republic accepted a law banning alcoholic drinks. It was the time of the Turkish Independence war.

Coincidentally, the USA accepted the alcohol ban during the same years.

Even during the alcohol ban, it was no secret that the taverns in the capital city of Ankara continued operating.

Many government officials, including Turkey’s founding father, Ataturk, also continued drinking alcohol during this period. This not strongly enforced alcohol ban was lifted in Turkey in April 1924.

After 1924, alcohol and alcohol consumption has always been free in Turkey.

Turkey Travel Planning Guide

🚑 Should I buy travel insurance for Turkey?

100% YES! — With basic coverage averaging just $5-10 USD per day, enjoy peace of mind with a plan from SafetyWing, one of the biggest names in travel insurance.

💧Can you drink tap water in Turkey?

Rarely — You’ll want to buy a Water-To-Go Bottle, which filters your drinking water so you don’t get sick from drinking water in Turkey, and helps keep you hydrated while traveling Turkey. (Read more)

🚙💨 Is it safe to rent a car in Turkey?

Yes — Renting a car in Turkey is one of the best ways to explore the seven regions of Turkey! I always rent with Discover Cars, which checks both international companies and local Turkish companies, so you get the best rates. (Read more)

🏩 What’s the best way to book my Turkey accommodation?

For Turkish hotels and hostels, Booking is the best site. If you’re considering an Airbnb, don’t forget also to check VRBO, which is often cheaper than Airbnb!

✈️ What’s the best site to buy flights to Turkey? For finding cheap Turkey flights, I recommend Skyscanner and Google Flights. (Read more about the best Turkish Airline Companies.)

🎫 Do I need a visa for Turkey?

Likely Not — U.S., Canadian, and most European Passport holders don’t need a visa for Turkey but check here to see if you do need a Turkey travel visa.

5 thoughts on “Do Turkish People Drink Alcohol? Our Laws, History, and Culture”

  1. Thanks so much for your article. I can’t wait to visit such an amazing place and culture. I am excited to meet the people of Turkey and drink Raki there. Thank you my friend.


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