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Gillman
10-11-2009, 13:56
Last year I had a thread on arak and similar drinks (absinthe, pastis, anisette, ouzo) but it is defunct due to lapse of time.

I'll post here further thoughts on these drinks and encourage others to do so.

In Montreal I found recently an arak called El Massaya, over 50% ABV and aged in earthenware amphorae (per the label). This is a very good drink, while certainly the liquorice/anise taste is evident, other things are going on including a definite taste from the pottery vessels in which it was aged. I actually recognized the taste from its effect on bourbon in (some) decanters from the 70's and 80's!

Initially I bought this type of drink to use in Sazeracs (the whiskey cocktail). I still do that but like them on their own too.

Gary

cowdery
10-11-2009, 14:25
It is interesting to me that so many of the Mediterranean cultures produce Aniseed drinks. I wonder why that is?

By the same token, carraway seed is commonly used to flavor neutral spirits in the cultures around the Baltic.

ratcheer
10-11-2009, 14:53
It is interesting to me that so many of the Mediterranean cultures produce Aniseed drinks. I wonder why that is?



Tradition?

Tim

PS - I have to add more characters to be able to post my post.

cowdery
10-11-2009, 15:10
Sure, of course, but that still begs the question, why is it a tradition? Was there some single, very ancient aniseed-flavored drink from which all others are derived?

Gillman
10-11-2009, 15:45
I don't know the answer. Aniseed is not I would say an "intuitive" taste, it took me years - and I have a sympathy for different drinks and try to understand them - to really like the taste, but I do now. Could the seed have been easily planted and cultivated around the Mediterranean? Was it traditional to numerous of these countries? I believe aniseed is used to flavour confections in the area, maybe its use in spirits was inspired by that.

Gary

MarkEdwards
10-11-2009, 16:37
Could the seed have been easily planted and cultivated around the Mediterranean? Was it traditional to numerous of these countries? I believe aniseed is used to flavour confections in the area, maybe its use in spirits was inspired by that.
Gary

It is well-known that "Italian Sausage" is made with anissed. Maybe some influence from that direction?

I had only heard of Akvivit from a couple of old science fiction stories. It only recently occurred to me to see if it actually exists.

Jono
10-11-2009, 18:44
Medicinal roots....

http://www.innvista.com/health/herbs/anise.htm

"Anise has been cultivated in Egypt for at least 4,000 years. A reference was found in an Egyptian papyrus dating around 2000 BCE. Pharaonic medical texts indicate that the seeds were used as a diuretic, to treat digestive problems, and to relieve toothache."


"Although mainly used in food, its licorice flavour has been used medicinally as a treatment for abdominal upsets and intestinal gas, as well as for a breath freshener. William Turner recorded in 1551 that "anyse maketh the breth sweter and swageth payne".

".....In medieval times, anise was used as a gargle with honey and vinegar to treat tonsillitis.

TNbourbon
10-11-2009, 23:04
Throughout the Mediterrean, aniseed liquors -- usually diluted (so as not to form cloudiness -- likely, thus, unfiltered) -- generally were digestifs, though often also used medicinally for such things as sleeplessness (via Pliny the Elder, who also notes it as a breath freshener, and remedy for scorpion stings:eek:), rheumetism, coughs and "pectoral affections". If mixed with hot water, anisette, for example, is said to have immediate palliative effects for bronchial ailments, including spasmodic asthsma.
And, by the way, Virgil's (http://www.virgils.com/about.shtml) root beer, in the U.S., has anise as an ingredient. Alas, it isn't available to me.

Gillman
10-12-2009, 19:24
Thanks all for this information, most interesting.

Gary

callmeox
10-16-2009, 20:17
I had the opportunity to taste Absinthe Mata Hari at a distributors event here in Cleveland last week and I enjoyed it immensely. It is a different style than "traditional" absinthe and it contains less of the anise flavor. It was my first exposure to absinthe and the experience was a quite enjoyable drink.

At 60% ABV before a splash of water and/or an ice cube, this stuff could really get you in trouble. The high proof never seems to step forward.

I had a bottle of it in my hand today (and also a bottle of Fernet Branca) but the purchase will have to wait until payday.

smokinjoe
10-16-2009, 21:26
I don't know an anise seed from a hayseed, but I do really enjoy Romana Sambuca. 3 beans only, Vasili.

Gillman
10-17-2009, 02:11
Joe, Sambucca is very licorice-tasting, so if you like that drink you likely would enjoy these other examples being discussed. Scott, absinthe can be a good drink. I use it occasionally in whiskey cocktails and just occasionally will drink it with water and ice on its own, usually in summer. Historically, not all of it was anised, or some less than others. I haven't had the one you mention but it sounds maybe like ones I know from Spain and Portugal which are more minty/herbal than liquorice-tasting. It's fun to try an absinthe of occasion, it is a historical drink laden with mystery and a certain mystique. There are lots of good online resources on it.

Gary

Gillman
10-19-2009, 16:55
Tonight I pulled out a few of my araks and had small sips of each. They are similar but subtly different.

Elite Arak is the sole Israeli example. It is 80 proof and while anise is clearly present , it has a vegetal-like taste as well, maybe of celery. A nice dry drink, not too strong, good for neat sipping. I think a slice of lemon might be good with this.

Arak Fakra, a Lebanon product, is one of my favourites, and it is not available in Toronto at the moment but I found a half-bottle in Montreal last week. It has that inimitable extra taste from the earthenware jars it is aged in (per the label). Very nice, but at 55% ABV care is needed for neat sipping.

Arak el Khazen, another Lebanon arak, a gift from Stu, is rich and rounded with a slight sweetness. A full anise taste but very clean. 50% ABV.

A nice little survey, all good but different one from the other.

Gary

cowdery
10-21-2009, 17:46
I drank ouzo constantly when I was in Greece in 1995, but the bottle I bought upon my return is still in my cabinet. I like it fine, but here I have lots of bourbon to drink.

Ouzo is less sweet than many of the other anise-flavored drinks. Over there, it was always served with water, about half-and-half.

Gillman
10-21-2009, 18:22
Chuck, I understand, in fact in the past I found I could not drink an anise-based drink, but about a year ago I got the taste for it and I really like them. They are actually very good neat but you have to have not too much, with a water back.

Absinthe tasting coming up soon.

After that (French) pastis and equivalent.

Gary

Stones
10-29-2009, 23:26
I used to drink ouzo and coke when i was in my teens - the effect it takes on when you mix it with anything is very cool. I guess it was alcoholic and i was amused by simple things - still am really... :grin: