This one is about drinking alcohol. First of all Turks are a drinking nation starting from their origin. It is only after the Islamic era that things began to change for them. The oldest Turkish fermented drink is kımız, also known as kumiss, which extends back to the time of the Huns. One could safely say that kumiss is a drink that has been present in all the Turkish tribes since the Huns, and its production, consumption and effects constitute a culture in themselves. Kumiss is made from mare’s milk. Mare’s milk is superior to cow’s milk in some aspects; it is low in fat and high in sugar, and thus ferments and becomes alcoholic easily. Cow’s milk on the other hand is low in sugar and high in fat, and thus is not so easy to turn into alcohol. The second Turkish traditional alcoholic drink is “rakı”. And it is very popular in the modern era and has totally replaced “kımız”. And Rakı is a table drink; it is to bring people around a table with food served; mainly mezes (starters) to keep up the cheerful conversation. And actually because Rakı is usually 47% one has to eat something at the same time so that to get drunk slowlier and enjoy more.
The most important ritual of drinking all around the world is the saluting and wishing part while drinkers toast their glasses and share good faith. In many nations there are words uttered when doing this; “cheers” would say the English for the rest of the nations look at the table below. (click to enlarge)
But no one of them are talking about “honor”. So why do Turks say “on my honor” when they toast. It because Sultan Selim in the 14th century had banned drinking alcohol. He had obviously forgotten the Turkish inheritance and in terms of applying Islamic regulations had taken this step. And it was very strict; it was announced that anyone caught or reported to have drunk; would have heads chopped-off. So the drinking Turks took the measure of making an oath and saying to each other “Şerefe” which was short for “on my honor I swear I won’t tell anybody I drank with you”.
These days again the real meaning is forgotten and just said when toasting.