Milk of Lions: Arak

Arak is a traditional Middle Eastern liqueur originally distilled from fermented date palm sap. Now a days, it is most often distilled from grapes, and sometimes plums or figs, and water. At first taste, it is reminiscent of a French pastis or sambuca due to the presence of aniseed; however, pastis (and sambuca) is made using grain-based alcohol and sugar.

Arak is herbaceous, grassy, and peppery, and often comes across as slightly fruity – after all, it is made using grapes. As complex as Arak can be presented, it is a surprisingly simple spirit in that it is essentially brandy (distilled fruit) flavored only with aniseed.

As the official spirit of Lebanon, Arak is protected under an appellation system, similar to the wines of France and Italy. Furthermore, according to Lebanese rules, Arak must come from white grapes, be triple distilled in a pot still, and aged a year in clay.

The traditional way to enjoy arak is with mezza (Middle East small plates similar to tapas). Although it can be enjoyed alongside any course of a meal, arak is usually the way a meal begins, and is typically considered the highlight.

How to Drink Arak
According to tradition, you’ll want to mix one part Arak to two parts water – pouring the Arak first so you can experience the louche effect (when water turns the arak from clear/translucent to white and cloudy). Oh – and always use a fresh glass!

Zachlawi Fig Arak, $33.99
Don’t let the fact that this arak comes from New Jersey fool you. It is delightfully refined, a bit soft on the palate, and pleasantly balanced. Although arak can be anise-forward, the Zachlawi offers a gentler anise presence, and subtle hints of fruit (fig). At 80 proof, this is a sipper you won’t mind spending the evening with.

Try Arak Today!

Arak Cocktails

Fall Citrus Spritz
1 oz. Zachlawi Fig Arak
½ oz. Crème de Pamplemousse
Club Soda

                1. Muddle mint in a glass, pour the Fig Arak over the mint.
                2. Pour the crème de pamplemousse over the arak, top with club soda, add ice.
                3. Garnish with mint. Enjoy! Make another.

Arakuavit Martini
1 oz. Arak
1 oz. Aquavit
½ oz. Lemon Juice

                1. Pour liquids into a shaker, add ice, shake with vigor, strain into a coup.
                2. Garnish with a lemon wheel.