Arak, Spirit of the Middle East

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Arak is a clear & colorless unsweetened anise-flavored alcoholic drink commonly containing 50 percent alcohol by volume. However, the Persian version of Arak does not contain anise since it is normally produced from dates, raisins or saccharum plant. Basically, Arak is a traditional alcoholic beverage from Middle East historic Levant countries including Turkey & Iran. Arak is not to be confused with Arrack and which is similar named liquor from Indonesia. Moreover, Aragh is another similar sounding alcoholic drink from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Iran & Georgia which is a colloquial name for Vodka. However, Ouzo, Raki & Mastika are aniseed flavored alcoholic drinks which are related to Arak and quite popular in countries like Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Turkey.

Consumption of Arak

Mixed in proportions of one-third Arak and two-thirds water in a traditional water-vessel called Abarik, Arak mixture is then poured into small ice-filled cups where it turns milky-white in color. The resulting emulsion is because anethole essential oil of anise is soluble in alcohol, but not in water. Commonly served with mezza, barbeques, garlic sauce and dozens of other small traditional dishes, Arak drinkers prefer to consume it this way. In order to avoid precipitation of anise Arak drinkers avoid reusing Arak filled glasses. This is the reason when a bottle of Arak is ordered in restaurants, waiters would bring a number of glasses along with the drink.

Preparation of Arak

Since quality grapevines is key to making of good Arak, distillation starts within vineyards. Arak vines are mature and of golden color and left to the care of Mediterranean climate instead of being irrigated. Natural rain & sun take care of these grapes which are harvested in late September & October. Subsequently, grapes are crushed and put in barrels along with juice which are left to ferment for three weeks. The whole mix is occasionally stirred in order to release carbon-di-oxide. Taste and specificity of Arak is obtained by using numerous types of stills including copper or stainless steel and pot or column stills. The most sought after copper stills come with a Moorish shape.

Finished Product Arak

This is usually made during the second distillation, after alcohol from first distillation is collected and mixed with aniseed before distilling again. The quality of the final product is usually determined by the ratio of alcohol to aniseed. The final distillation takes place on the lowest possible temperature. Quality Arak is aged in clay amphora which allow angel’s share to evaporate while the remaining spirit is most suitable for consumption.

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