Salep and boza are among the top drinks that should be tried in İstanbul during the winter. To immerse yourself in the city's spirit, there’s nothing quite like sipping one of these time-honoured concoctions as you stroll İstanbul’s bustling streets and narrow lanes. Let’s get to know the delightful winter flavours of salep and boza, which will leave a lasting impression on your taste buds and evoke happy memories of your time in İstanbul.
Salep: A Potion that Transcends Centuries
Made from the powder of dried Anatolian orchid roots, salep is a timeless flavour believed to have been consumed for more than millennia. Today’s version of this tasty beverage originated during the Ottoman era. Allegedly a staple in the Ottoman palaces, salep was considered to have medicinal properties. In the seventeenth century, street vendors began selling this traditional drink in winter, carrying the precious liquid in large buckets and serving it from capacious porcelain cups. To this day, salep remains a winter essential in İstanbul and can be found across the city.
Salep powder, a crucial ingredient in the famous Maraş ice cream, is cooked with milk and sugar until it thickens into a deliciously aromatic and tasty beverage. Sprinkled with cinnamon, a cup of hot salep offers intense comfort and instant warmth on chilly days. In addition, some claim that the drink, packed with essential minerals, offers numerous health benefits, including boosting the immune system. Indeed, a hot salep will keep you energised while exploring İstanbul!
Where to Drink: Thankfully, many of İstanbul’s top salep spots also offer fabulous views of the iconic Bosphorus. We suggest savouring your salep in one of the neighbourhoods along the Bosphorus, including Üsküdar and Ortaköy. Salep is also served in picturesque areas such as Pierre Loti Hill and Çamlıca Hill, which feature lovely city views.
Boza: Perfect for Cosy Winter Nights
Another popular winter brew in İstanbul is boza. Enjoyed by people of all ages, boza is a fermented grain beverage, usually made with millet, though corn, wheat and other grains have also been used. With a tangy flavour and a thick consistency, the robust drink supplies nourishment and warmth. During the Ottoman Era, bozahanes (boza houses) were lively social hubs where people gathered to enjoy cups of boza. Furthermore, on winter nights in İstanbul, boza sellers would roam the streets. Though not widely practised these days, the tradition still exists; visitors to İstanbul may hear calls of “boza” when walking around at night. Boza is considered a powerful source of healing, packed with antioxidants and probiotics, as well as vitamins and minerals that help boost the immune system.
Where to Drink: The Vefa neighbourhood, near the Suleymaniye Mosque on the Historical Peninsula, is a top spot for boza. When winter arrives, İstanbul’s boza fans flock to the area’s celebrated boza shops, forming lengthy queues at the entrances. Depending on the drinker’s preference, boza is garnished with either cinnamon or yellow chickpeas.