The First Raki and Beer Factories in the Ottoman Empire Were Opened during the Reign of Abdul Hamid II

Abdul Hamid II is an important sultan in the Ottoman history. However, it is an undeniable fact that his reign saw the sharpest physical and spiritual decline of the Ottoman Empire. He was, in a way, a prisoner confined to the Palace and could not escape being ensnared by the British deep state plots. Surely he deserves respect like all statesmen, but portraying him like a saint who never made mistakes or his reign as the most glorious days of the Ottoman Empire definitely contradicts the historical facts.

Let’s remember what happened during Abdul Hamid’s reign;

- The Ottoman Empire sustained its biggest territorial losses,

- The first ever raki, which is a Turkish alcoholic drink, and beer factories were opened,

- Cigarette production started,

- Brothels and adultery spread,

- Wine export to Europe started,

- Darwinism, a philosophy that denies God, spread all around the Empire lands,

- British officers were made pashas in the army and their supporters were appointed to key positions in the administration. This was tantamount to leaving the rule of the Ottoman Empire to the British deep state,

- The Ottoman navy went to ruins,

- The Ottoman Public Debt Administration made the Ottoman Empire’s economy completely dependent on the West,

- Islamic community broke up,

- Darwinist, materialist ideologies spread around the entire Ottoman lands.

During the reign of Abdul Hamid II, the consumption of alcohol and cigarette increased, adultery skyrocketed. The Ottoman and Islamic lands saw a sharp moral and physical decline during this time. Many riots broke out across the Ottoman lands, and the primary reason behind the riots was that the Caliph had strayed away from Islam and that the center of the Caliphate was degenerating Muslim societies.


Bomonti Beer Factory Opened upon Abdul Hamid II’s Permission

Bomonti Brothers opened the first beer factory of the Ottoman Empire in Istanbul during the reign of Abdul Hamid II. Olympus Brewery was also set up in Thessaloniki. Abdul Hamid II personally signed the licenses of these facilities. Bomonti beer factory produced seven million liters of beer every year, which later reached ten million liters. 'Bomonti Beer Gardens' were built along the way that stretched from Thrace to Eskişehir, so that local people could drink beer.

During the reign of Abdul Hamid II, beer consumption in Istanbul and its vicinity increased so much that trains began to carry fresh beer from as far away as Vienna.


During Abdul Hamid II’s reign, alcohol production became an official government duty

Abdul Hamid II imposed taxes on alcohol and issued the Alcoholic Beverage Regulations. This regulation of 1886 stipulated the taxes to be collected for alcoholic drinks, while another regulation in 1890 set the quality standards and the taxes for the wine to be exported.  

 Abdul Hamid's involvement in alcoholic drink regulations and the corresponding taxes is important because he was the 'Islamic Caliph'. His role in such practices was a clear indicator of the grim situation the Ottoman Empire found itself in, not to mention the intense pressure of the British deep state. The expense ledgers of the Palace show that wine, champagne and other drinks were bought for the palace, too. Indeed, Abdul Hamid’s grandson remembers how his grandfather ‘loved and drank rum’:


The first raki factory of Turkey was opened during the rule of Abdul Hamid II

The first raki factory was opened during the rule of Abdul Hamid II. The farm where the factory was located belonged to the head chamberlain of the Sultan and the Minister of Finance. The raki produced at this farm quickly became very popular and taxes collected from its sales became the most important item in the tax class called 'The Six Indirect Taxes'.

The aforementioned weren't the only raki factories opened during Abdul Hamid's rule. There were a number of brands competing to get the top spot in the raki market. During Abdul Hamid's rule, which was a time even the palace staff was producing raki, Deniz Kızı Raki, also known as Tenedos Raki, became very popular. Üzüm Kızı Raki was another popular raki brand and was usually known as 'the raki with the girl' due to its advertisement posters.



Alcohol production and consumption during the rule of Abdul Hamid II

86 million kg of wine was produced in 1896 alone

14 million kg of raki was produced annually

32 million kg of brandy was produced annually

1 million kg of beer was produced annually

Total amount of alcoholic beverages produced annually was 102 million kg


Abdul Hamid II allowed the production of the Greek alcoholic beverage ‘’ouzo’’

When European vineyards started going bad, the whole of Europe, particularly France, turned to the Ottoman Empire to meet their demands for wine. During Abdul Hamid's reign, wine exports skyrocketed to 340 million liters by 1904. Wine advertisements were to be found in the Ottoman newspapers.

In 1889, vineyards were set up in Istanbul on a 70-hectare land. The vineyards in the Aegean region were used to produce grapes for wine production, which would later be exported to Europe. Boards for Martel cognac could be seen all around Istanbul.

Ottoman cognacs entered competitions in Paris and won awards. Again, the first champagne factory was opened in the Ottoman Empire when Abdul Hamid II was the Sultan.

Alcohol production and consumption increased so much during Abdul Hamid's time, a chapter of a famous cookbook for housewives gave recipe for homemade raki. The readers were given detailed descriptions of the production methods for two different types of raki (namely raki seasoned with mastic and regular raki), with a side note that fermented grape juice and wine could also be produced using the same setup.

According to journalist Ahmet Cemaleddin Saraçoğlu, '... the rule of Abdul Hamid II provided a massive tavern to citizens'.

Muslims are forbidden by God from drinking alcohol. Surely, every person has the right to live his life the way he desires, however, the fact that an Islamic caliph personally signed permits to open up alcohol factories and supported its consumption is unacceptable.

O you who have believed, indeed, intoxicants, gambling, [sacrificing on] stone alters [to other than God], and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of satan, so avoid it that you may be successful. (Qur'an, 5:90)






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