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Thread: Arak

  1. #1
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    Mrt, since you live in Turkey, do you have any interest in arak? Is it in fact (maybe I shouldn't assume this) a traditional spirit there (amongst those who imbibe of course)? If so, what kinds are there, which is considered the best, and why?

    In Ontario there are quite a few different kinds available from all around the Mediteranean including I believe Israel. The prices vary quite a bit. One that looks interesting is from Lebanon. It is 50% abv and made from a grape-distilled spirit and aged in earthernware jugs (according to the label).

    Gary

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gillman
    Mrt, since you live in Turkey, do you have any interest in arak? Is it in fact (maybe I shouldn't assume this) a traditional spirit there (amongst those who imbibe of course)? If so, what kinds are there, which is considered the best, and why?

    In Ontario there are quite a few different kinds available from all around the Mediteranean including I believe Israel. The prices vary quite a bit. One that looks interesting is from Lebanon. It is 50% abv and made from a grape-distilled spirit and aged in earthernware jugs (according to the label).

    Gary
    The traditional spirit of Turkey is "rakı (raki)". "Arak" is a spirit of the same kind but it's mainly found in Arabic and other middle eastern countries.

    I like "rakı" very much. It's a spirit that's made of grapes and aniseed. After production, it rests for sometime in oak barrels. Rakı can be drunk either neet or with water addition, but we usually drink a mix. of raki-water %50-%50, adding a piece of ice. This is becouse the colour turns to white when mixed with water (becouse of the aniseed) and seems better. Turkish Rakı contains %45-%50 ABV. (90-100 proof). Though the ABV is high for a "meal drink", raki is actually a drink to have with a variety of starters called "meze" here. "Meze" is the name of special starter Turkish food, also including some salads. Then, we continue drinking rakı with meal, too. It has a sweet-like taste and a good smell-if you don't hate aniseed smell. Besides, unlike some red wines, rakı never causes a "headache". Turkish Raki used to be produced by the state-owned monopoly for years (since the foundation of the Republic) , but private-sector started production again after the new law passed two years ago. However, to many Turkish rakı enthusiasts, the best is still the brand "Yeni Rakı (New Raki)", which was once produced by the then state-owned monopoly which is now owned by a private sector company.

    That's the "rakı summary". As for the "arak", I've never had a drop of it, nor have I seen a bottle, so I do not know anything about the taste and resemblings or differencies of it with rakı.

    Regards,
    MRT

  3. #3
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    Many thanks, mrt, very informative, and much appreciated.

    I know at least one form of raki is available in Ontario, maybe more than one.

    I may pick up an arak, a raki and a Pernod or Ouzo (all examples I believe of the Mediterranean "anise" style but conforming of course to the local (national) style or interpretation), and have a comparative tasting. Now I know what foods to serve with them.

    We even have a type made here, called Anisette, made by one our whisky companies.

    This sounds ideal for the summer, when it finally warms up here.

    Thanks again for the information.

    Gary

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    You're welcome, and thank you too, for the question that was an oppotunity for me to give some information about a spirit that's-I guess- relatively less famous in the US.

    I'd be very glad to have something to write that can be referred as-more or less- a "contribution" to the huge knowledge-base at SB.

    MRT

  5. #5
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    Here is a good NY Times article on various Mediterranean anise flavored spirits.

    I can't remember if it's been posted here before or not.

    I suppose this should go into non-whiskey alcohol if it goes much further.

    Jeff
    "One never knows, do one?" Fats Waller, American Musician, 1904-1943

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrt
    You're welcome, and thank you too, for the question that was an oppotunity for me to give some information about a spirit that's-I guess- relatively less famous in the US.

    I'd be very glad to have something to write that can be referred as-more or less- a "contribution" to the huge knowledge-base at SB.

    MRT
    One of the great things about this board is getting a glimpse into a very vertical slice of different cultures. Folks with a common interest (bourbon but also drinks in general) share their preferences and experiences. It's one of my favorite aspects.

    Ken
    "Wealth can be wonderful, but you know, success can test one's mettle as surely as the strongest adversary. "

  7. #7
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    Well put, Ken, I agree with you. Today I went out and bought two araks. One is Arak Fakra, 55% abv from Lebanon. Made from grape spirit and aged in clay jars. The other is Ksarak, from a town in Lebanon called Ksara. It is slightly less strong, 53% abv. I tried both neat (just a little). Both are very good but I like Fakra better. Fakra is I would say more like that 4 Copas tequila, not in taste but in artisanal character. The aniseed flavour is very much there but not too much and there are other flavours coming through in the drink; it has seemingly a unique, local character. The Ksara product is very full in licorice taste, fulsome and luxurious even. But it doesn't seem to have the "edge" or funky character the other does. Of course each might taste different cut with water or ice. I bought them to try them in their own right but mainly for use in Sazerac and Manhattan cocktails, the anise flavour is similar to that of Herbsaint and many pastis' and absinthes, so they will fulfill this role well. The Fakra also comes in a less expensive version which the label states is based on "neutral spirit". I am not sure if the neutral spirit is GNS or perhaps even made from sugar beet or molasses (or it could be made from grape spirit) but the Fakra I bought (the higher grade) states on the label it is made from "grape spirit" and also that the product is aged in earthenware jars. The Ksara label also states this arak is aged, "for two years in clay jars to soften the spirit". It is interesting to try drinks from such a different tradition. I found on the shelves here no raki, and no arrack from Israel or any other country in the Middle East other than Lebanon although there were anise-flavoured drinks from Italy and some other countries which might resemble arak or pastis. Although, I am pretty sure I have seen raki at least here in the past. But I was happy with what I did find.

    I think of all the world's well-known drinks, the tequilas and the anise-flavored ones are the ones it took me longest to accustom to, or maybe it was simply that I hadn't encountered them much until recently.

    I did enjoy the ones mentioned above and will try them soon with water and ice, which is the classic way to drink them.

    Gary
    Last edited by Gillman; 03-20-2006 at 00:16.

 

 

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