Arak with water and ice
|Country of origin||Levant|
|Alcohol by volume||40–63%|
|Related products||Absinthe, Ouzo, Pastis, Sambuca|
Arak or araq (Arabic: عرق) is a Levantine alcoholic spirit (~40–63% Alc. Vol./~80–126 proof) in the anis drinks family. It is a clear, colorless, unsweetened anise-flavored distilled alcoholic drink. Arak is the traditional alcoholic beverage in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and Israel.
Its pronunciation varies depending on local varieties of Arabic: /ʕaraʔ, ʕaraɡ/. Arak is not to be confused with the similarly named liquor, arrack (which in some cases, such as in Indonesia—especially Bali, also goes by the name arak). Another similar-sounding word is aragh, which in Armenia, Iran, Azerbaijan and Georgia is the colloquial name of vodka, and not an aniseed-flavored drink. Raki, mastika, and ouzo are aniseed-flavored alcoholic drinks, related to arak, popular in Turkey, Bulgaria, and Cyprus and Greece, respectively.
'Arak' in Malay means beer and all type of alcoholic drinks.
Arak is usually mixed in proportions of approximately ⅓ arak and ⅔ water in a traditional Eastern Mediterranean water vessel called Abarik, Arabic abarīq أبريق; then the mixture is poured into small, ice-filled cups, as in the picture (named "Raki" in Turkey). This dilution causes the clear liquor to turn a translucent milky-white color; this is because anethole, the essential oil of anise, is soluble in alcohol but not in water. This results in an emulsion, whose fine droplets scatter the light and turn the liquid translucent, a phenomenon known as louching. Arak is commonly served with mezza, which may include dozens of small traditional dishes. In general, arak drinkers prefer to consume it this way, rather than alone. It is also consumed with barbecues, along with garlic sauce.
If ice is added after pouring it into the cup, this results in the formation of an aesthetically unpleasant layer on the surface of the drink, because the ice causes the oils to solidify. If water is added first, the ethanol causes the fat to emulsify, leading to the characteristic milky color. To avoid the precipitation of the anise (instead of emulsion), drinkers prefer not to reuse an arak-filled glass. In restaurants, when a bottle of arak is ordered, the waiter will usually bring a number of glasses along with it for this reason.
Distillation begins with the vineyards, and quality grapevines are the key to making good arak. The vines should be very mature and usually of a golden color. Instead of being irrigated, the vineyards are left to the care of the Mediterranean climate and make use of the natural rain and sun. The grapes, which are harvested in late September and October, are crushed and put in barrels together with the juice (in Arabic El romeli) and left to ferment for three weeks. Occasionally the whole mix is stirred to release the CO2.
Numerous stills exist including stainless steel or copper, pot and column stills that will affect the final taste and specificity of the arak. The authentic copper stills with a Moorish shape are the most sought after.
The finished product is made during the second distillation. The alcohol collected in the first distillation is distilled again but this time it is mixed with aniseed. The ratio of alcohol to aniseed may vary and it is one of the major factors in the quality of the final product. Another distillation takes place, usually on the lowest possible temperature.
Numerous varieties of arak are popular in all the countries bordering the Mediterranean. In the Levant (Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Israel) it is distilled from fermented grape juice or, at times, sugar, and is considered by the inhabitants to be greatly superior to similar hard liquors in other countries. Other similar drinks are the arak of Iraq, made from fermented date juice, and the zibib of Egypt, a peasant-made drink. The same spirit is called ouzo in Greece, mastika in Bulgaria, and rakı in Turkey; they are made from a variety of products like grain, dates, molasses, plums, figs and potatoes. An Iranian variant called Aragh is produced without anise, and has a higher alcohol content than other varieties. In Israel, It is sometimes also mixed with grapefruit juice instead of water to create a cocktail known as 'Arak eshkoliyyot', literally 'Arak grapefruit'. A cocktail of Arak and minced frozen khat, mixed with grapefruit juice, has become popular in the south of the Israel in recent years, it is called 'Arak gat'.
The most commonly known arak brands are:
- Asriyah (العصرية)
- Julenar ( جلنار )
- Tayyara (طيارة )
- Aluf Ha'arak (אלוף הערק)
- Arak Ashkelon (ארק אשקלון)
- Arak El Namroud (ערק אל-נמרוד)
- Arak El Pasha (ערק אל פאשה)
- Arak El Sultan (ערק אל סולטן)
- Arak Gat (ערק גת)
- Arak Ha'Namal 40 (ערק הנמל 40)
- Arak Kawar (ערק קעוואר) (عرق قعوار)
- Arak Mabruoka (ערק מברוקה)
- Arak Masada (ערק מצדה)
- Elite Ha'arak (עלית הארק)
- Nahala (נהלה)
- Haddad (حداد)
- Bakfia (بكفيا)
- Oriental Star Distilleries (عرق نجمة الشرق)
- Zumout (زعمط)
- Al Batta (ﺍﻟﺒﻄﺔ)
- Al Jouzour (الجذور)
- Al-Laytany (ﺍﻟﻠﻴﻄﺎﻧﻲ)
- Al-Shallal (الشلال)
- Al-Zahlawi (زحلاوي)
- Arak el Rif (ﻋﺮﻕ ﺍﻟﺮﻳﻒ)
- As Samir (السمير)
- Batroun Mountains (جبال البترون)
- Brun (ﺑﺮﺍﻥ)
- El Massaya (ﻣﺴﺎﻳﺎ)
- Fakra (ﻓﻘﺮﺍ)
- Gerge Bou Raad ( جرجي بو رعد)
- Ghantous and Abi Raad (ﻏﻨﻄﻮﺱ ﻭ ﺃﺑﻲ ﺭﻋﺪ)
- Kefraya (كفرَيا)
- Ksara (ﻛﺴﺎﺭﺍ)
- Layali Loubnan (ﻟﻴﺎﻟﻲ ﻟﺒﻨﺎﻥ)
- Musar (ﻣزﺍﺭ)
- Nakd (ﻧﻜﺪ)
- Riachi (ﺭﻳﺎﺷﻲ)
- Shadra (شدرا)
- Tazka (ﺗﺰﻛﺎ)
- Touma (ﺗﻮﻣﺎ)
- Wardy (ورده)
- The Good Samaritan Arak (عرق السامري الصالح)
- Oriental Star Distilleries (عرق نجمة الشرق)
- Ramallah Golden Arak (عرق رام الله الذهبي)
- Sabat Arak (عرق صابات)
- Al Batta (ﺍﻟﺒﻄﺔ)
- Al Dinan (الدنان)
- Al Hayat (ﺍﻟحياة)
- Al Jarra (الجرة)
- Al Mimas (ﺍﻟﻤﻴﻤﺎﺱ)
- Al Rayan (ﺍﻟﺮﻳﺎﻥ)
- Al Reef (الريف)
- Kefraya (كفريا)
- Krom Al Shrfeh (كروم الشرفرفة)
- Kjeilen, Tore. "Arak". LookLex Encyclopaedia. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
Arak today is largely a product of Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.
- "Arak: Liquid Fire". The Economist. December 2003. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
Syrians, Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians and Iraqis [...] have long happily quaffed their own araks. But most would concede that the best of the lot is Lebanese.
- Arak and Mezze: The Taste of Lebanon by Michael Karam
- Another Anise Spirit Worth Knowing, New York Times, August 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/04/dining/04arak.html
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Arak (drink).|
- Preparing arak in Toula (Lebanon)
- Wine and Dine e-magazine
- Syrian homemade arak
- Video: preparing homemade arak near Tartous, Syria