While there is still a civil war and many are scared to visit the country, visiting Syria is not only a wonderful thing, but also a great way to help the brutally sanctioned country. What makes it so great? Primarily the people, but Syrian foods and Syrian drinks are also a huge part of the deal.
I shall give Syrian foods and indeed Syrian street food its own article, but for today I will go for that other street food guy passion, drinks and Syrian drinks are rather good!
To read about the best drinks in Sudan click here.
Can you drink in Syria?
When most of Syria was ruled by Islamic State you could not drink alcohol in most of Syria. Damascus though held out and even when ISIS where knocking at the door there are tales of Syrians partying the night away even as shells were hitting the old city.
Whether you like the Syrian regime, or not they promote secularism, which means if you want to drink in Syria you most certainly can. How many options depends on where you are, with Christian communities drinking more than Muslim ones, the exception here is Old Damascus which has everything from pubs, to clubs, drink kiosks and one of my favourite bars in the world!
To read about The Barber Shop click here
So, can you drink in Syria? In short yes you can, with Syria making its own beer, wine and Arak (like Ouzo). The range of bars will depend on where you are. Damascus as mentioned has bars galore, while more conservative Aleppo has just one, namely Cheers bar Aleppo City
The 9 best Syrian Drinks
I will probably give Syrian drinking culture its own article, but in the interests of this list we will be focussing on the 9 best Syrian drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Therefore the best Syrian drinks of 2022 come in no particular order….
Tea much like much of the middle-east is a big deal in Syria and is served classical in a piping hot tea glass without milk and with sugar. It costs anywhere from 20 cents, if it is charged at all. There are tea stops everywhere and this was the first drink I stopped for after crossing the border from Lebanon to Syria.
To read about crossing from Lebanon to Syria click here.
Tea is also offered in other flavours, such as mint etc, but I stick to the classic with sugar.
Best Syrian spirit – Arak
Arak or araq (Arabic: ﻋﺮﻕ) is a anise made liquor produced and consumed throughout the Levant, i.e. Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. Un mixed it is a white liquor, but when you drink Arak in Syria it is mixed with water to create a white milky like liquid.
FYI do not down a shot without water. Comparable to Pernod, or Ouzo, in fact this is very much its own drink and comes in all shapes sizes and prices. It does not get much more Syrian than some meat, shisha and arak at dinner.
Ayran, doogh, dhallë, daw or tan is the national drink of Turkey according to Erdogan and is one of my favourite drinks in the world. I originally discovered Aryan while living in Albania where it is known as dhalle.
To read about dhalle click here.
A savoury yogurt drink aryan is slightly savoury to almost be salty and is essentially yogurt and water mixed together. Syria produce their own aryan and it can be had bottled at pretty much every meal. Costs no more than 50 cents. You can get big bottles at markets and nothing quite goes better with Syrian shawarma.
Due to sanctions unlikely to become the next big thing in the vino world, but withe Syrian climate coupled with it being a cradle of Chritiandom it is not surprising to learn that Syrian wine is pretty good.
Costs vary from if you buy in a shop, or a bar and there are many varieties of both red and white Syrian wine. Rule of thumb budget about 20 bucks for a decent bottle of Syrian red wine in a bar.
Many areas, particularly Christian ones make their own wines, with quality and sweetness varying greatly.
OK, so obviously I was going to get onto one of my major obsessions at some point. Syria is a really interesting country in that before the war it was basically self-sufficient. War has changed this, but destroyed this and they make their own colas.
The two Syrian cokes I found were Master Cola and Sinalco, Sinalco being mildly better than Master Cola, which came across a bit supermarket brand like. As home grown colas go Sinalco Cola was not as good as Ize, but better than North Korean coke.
Interestingly while Pepsi is readily available there is no Coca-Cola, both of which are available in Cuba and North Korea. Syria is the only country in the world without Coca-Cola that I have yet to find.
Best Syrian Juices
Syria grows its own fruit and has a lot of varieties of citrus, particularly good oranges. Fresh orange juice is freshly squeezed in many a place, from the old streets of Damascus to rebel held Bosra.
A very tangy and citrusy blend its an absolute thirst quencher.
While tea is the weapon of choice for your average Syrian coffee is available simply everywhere from breakfast to roadside pit-stops. Again costs nothing and is usually served strong and espresso style with lots of sugar.
Old Damascus also has a number of coffee shops for people who want something a bit more fancy.
Syria not only make their own beer, but it is good and cheap. Al-Shark (from Aleppo) and Barada (from Damascus) are the two most popular brands. Production was briefly stopped during the civil war, but its is back with a bang now. Both are pale-type lagers with strengh ebing from 3-4%
Other beer brands include Afamia Beer of Syria and Arados Beer, both of which are post-war additions to the beer scene. Amazingly we also found Ukrainian beer, quite ironic when you consider Syrian-Russian relations and the current war between Russia and the Ukraine.
Fun fact, Syria have been making beer for about 5,000 years.
Bottled water is available all across Syria and is cheap and readily available. Some place sin the countryside also ofter natural streams and fresh water. Sadly the civil war have really affected water availability, which is estimated to be 40 percent less than pre-war levels.
But as with other things, water is just another element where Syrians smile and get on with things!
How can I visit Syria for Syrian drinks?
You gotta join a tour baby! Luckily Young Pioneer Tours have one coming up in September.