I still remember my first sip of ayran, the salty yogurt drink popular throughout Turkey. It was a beautiful spring day in 2007, and a friend and I were having lunch on the patio of a Turkish restaurant in Menlo Park, Calif. I have a wide-ranging palate, so I ordered the ayran casually, sure that I’d like it. But as the yogurt hit my tongue, I winced, my eyes bulged wide, and I pushed the glass to the far edge of the table. “I can’t drink that,” I said simply. While I loved the whole sea bass, the lahmacun (charred flatbread topped with ground lamb) and the extra-smoky baba ghanouj, I couldn’t brook the drink’s unfamiliar salinity.
Oh, but how things change. Today, I love ayran’s tang and its salty bite. As do so many others: Our collective exposure to the way the rest of world eats yogurt also includes the way the world drinks yogurt. We’re moving beyond ultra-thick, milkshake-y, berry-based smoothies to more globally inspired flavors and textures. Some are still sweet, but others paint with a broader palette, folding complex spices, invigorating fizz and, yes, even salt into the mix.
The simple, creamy ayran is Turkey’s favorite hot-weather beverage, typically made with salt. According to Nazli Piskin, an Istanbul food writer and culinary historian, the ayran’s ratio of water to yogurt depends on the yogurt’s thickness and personal preference. If you use Greek yogurt, thin with a bit more water.
Cucumber doogh is a drinkable, refreshing riff on a cold yogurt soup topped with cucumber, nuts, golden raisins and rose petals that’s served at the Fly Trap in San Francisco. Make it as salty as you like, and serve it well chilled or over ice.
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Fans of green tea ice cream will appreciate matcha’s familiar flavor notes — without the typical richness and sugar — in this tangy and invigorating drink. Those without a high-powered blender should plump the date in hot water for 5 minutes and chop it finely before blending to ensure even distribution. Find powdered matcha at Japanese markets, specialty grocers and online. Do not substitute loose-leaf or bagged green tea.
The Flutterby lassi digestif is an unexpected, breezy blend of cucumber and dill, a variation on the yogurt drink that’s popular in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. It calls for absinthe, but pastis also works well. Muddling the cucumber and dill together releases flavor notes that uplift the absinthe’s mintiness and soften its intensity.
Whether you’re in Turkey, California, Washington or somewhere entirely different, ayran — like doogh, lassi, kefir or the many iterations of drinkable yogurt popular throughout the world — shows that even when you ditch your spoon, hot weather and cool yogurt still go hand in hand.
Sternman Rule is the author of “Yogurt Culture” (Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015) and the founder of TeamYogurt.com.
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1/2 cup peeled, diced English (seedless) cucumber
1 tablespoon golden raisins
4 walnut halves
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh dill
Generous pinch kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Ice cubes (optional)
Ice water and/or chilled seltzer, for serving
Dried mint, for garnish (optional)
Dried crushed (culinary) rose petals, for garnish (optional)
Ground sumac, for garnish (optional)
Combine the yogurt, cucumber, raisins, walnuts, dill, salt (to taste) and a grinding of fresh pepper in a blender. Puree until smooth and slightly frothy.
Fill two glasses with ice, if desired. Divide the doogh between them, then top off with the ice water and/or chilled seltzer. If you like, garnish with dried mint, crushed rose petals and/or sumac.
Nutrition per serving: 130 calories, 7 g protein, 11 g carbohydrates, 6 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 125 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 8 g sugar
Nazli Piskin’s ayran
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (may substitute Greek yogurt; see note in the story)
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 cup cold water, or as needed
Combine the yogurt and salt, if using, in a deep bowl. Gradually whisk in the water, as needed, until the mixture is foamy on top. Pour into a tall, chilled glass.
Nutrition per serving: 170 calories, 13 g protein, 12 g carbohydrates, 8 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 105 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 10 g sugar
Matcha yogurt cooler
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 cup ice
1 1/2 teaspoons powdered matcha (see note in the story)
1 pitted date, chopped (see note in the story)
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch kosher salt
Combine the yogurt, ice, matcha, date, vanilla extract and salt in a blender, preferably an ice-crushing (high-powered) model. Puree until smooth; pour into a tall glass and serve right away.
Nutrition per serving: 100 calories, 7 g protein, 9 g carbohydrates, 4 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 125 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 7 g sugar
3 small dill sprigs
2 slices peeled English (seedless) cucumber, plus 1 long strip of peel for garnish
1 ounce absinthe (may substitute pastis)
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup (see note below)
Scant 1/4 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
Muddle 2 sprigs of the dill and the cucumber slices in a cocktail shaker. Fill the shaker halfway with ice, add the absinthe, lime juice, simple syrup and yogurt; seal and shake vigorously for 30 seconds, then double-strain into a large coupe or tumbler.
Roll up the strip of cucumber peel; secure it, with the remaining sprig of dill, with a toothpick. Use this to garnish the drink..
Note: To make a simple syrup, combine 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a low boil, then cool.
Nutrition per serving: 180 calories, 3 g protein, 24 g carbohydrates, 2 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 25 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 22 g sugar