As temperatures are rising in Turkey, more and more copper cups with a white frothy liquid are popping up everywhere. The ice-cold mugs with condensed water droplets on the outside contain the official national drink of Turkey. Yes, president Erdoğan actually rewarded it the honorable status in 2013! Ayran, so its name, is a traditional refreshing yogurt drink with a slightly sour taste which is most popular during the hot summer months. A great and delicious way for taking in sodium and keeping oneself from dehydrating in the heat. This characteristic is probably, at least partly, responsible for a common custom in Turkey. Especially in rural areas, hosts usually offer their guests Ayran upon arrival – a welcoming gesture to regain strength after an exhausting journey.
Today, the yogurt drink is prevalent across Turkey and throughout the entire year. Whether in normal restaurants or out of containers carried around by street vendors, you will find Ayran pretty much anywhere. Even big international fast food chains like McDonald’s or Burger King have it on their menu by now.
The concept of Ayran is not only popular in Turkey though. The refreshing drink is common across the entire Caucasus and exists in similar ways in neighboring countries under different names.
Apart from its fresh and delicious taste, Ayran is a true fitness drink. It is very low in calories, does not contain added sugar and is due to its low lactose level very well digestible for most people. On top, its probiotic cultures help building and maintaining a healthy enteric flora.
How to prepare and drink Ayran
Ayran is a super easy-to-make drink that only consists of three basic ingredients – yogurt, water and salt. To prepare Ayran, you simply mix yogurt and water in a ratio of 2:1 to create a frothy liquid. A pinch of salt gives it an extra touch.
Traditionally only sheep milk is used, whereas today it is more common to take cow milk, especially for ready-made versions. Either way, it is best to use yogurt with a fat content of 3.5%. This creates the best consistency and the most delicious taste. Yogurts that are lower in fat can easily dilute the beverage too much and make it feel watery.
Sometimes mint, lemon balm or basil are used to refine the yogurt drink. There are even mass-produced versions with fruit additives but, after all, the plain one without any fuss is still the most popular.
Since Ayran is mainly a summer drink, Turkish people always enjoy it nice and cold. Whether freshly made or in a plastic cup right out of the fridge, Ayran is a perfect appetizer to go with pastries, kebabs or any other traditional Turkish dish.
Does Ayran actually come from Turkey?
Although the origin of the yogurt drink isn’t entirely clear, it is definitely older than Turkey itself. Ayran most probably has its roots in the Caucasus and the Anatolian region. Between the 6th and the 8th century, the Göktürks lived in the region between the Caspian Sea and Manchuria. They are said to be the inventors of the nowadays popular yogurt drink. The nomads supposedly mixed yogurt that had gone sour with water and thereby created Ayran. Due to the Islamization of the Turk peoples, Ayran grew in popularity as a substitute for the slightly alcoholic Kumys, a fermented drink from mare milk.
Whether as a fitness beverage or just as a refreshment, Ayran is definitely worth a try. Here is our super simple and authentic recipe:
Tan from Russia
Lassie from India and Pakistan
Dough from Afghanistan and Iran
Dhallë in Albania
Kefir from the Caucasus
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