Saturday, May 2, 2009

Arak Al-Sumot

Yes, it does exist! Actual traditional booze made in the Middle East. The stuff is called Arak, and I was fortunate enough to find some of it in Jordan during my latest trip overseas. The stuff tastes like...well, exactly like all eastern Mediterranean liqueurs taste; like licorice. But unlike Ouzo or Sambuca, Arak isn't syrupy and doesn't have a sickeningly sweet candy taste to it. On the contrary, it is very light, with a strong anise taste, and a slightly bitter aftertaste. Arak is made of neutral spirits distilled from grapes. Typically distilled 3 times in a copper pot still, with the aniseed being added during the second distillation, it has a fairly high alcohol content of a around 50% on average.

I picked up a bottle of Arak Al-Zumot, a product of Zumot Distilleries, based out of Amman Jordan. Probably the most popular arak is Arak Haddad, made by Eagle Distilleries, also based in Jordan. They make 5 or 6 different types of arak. I chose the arak I did partially for the aesthetic appeal of the bottle, but mostly because the smaller 375ml bottle was necessary to stay under my duty free allowance. (damn customs!)

The traditional way to drink arak is to mix it approximately 1/3 arak to 2/3 water, with ice being added "after" it is mixed. As with most anise flavored liqueurs, this dilution causes the clear liquid to louche and turn an opaque milky-white color. Now I've had my share of anise liqueurs and spirits, and nothing I have ever tried louches quite like arak. It's an instant change from clear to white as the anethole emulsifies. The reason this happens so quickly is because arak is a spirit and not a liqueur. It doesn't have all the sugar and other additives most anise drinks have, which slow down the louching process.

Anyways, I strongly recommend giving it a try if you find a bottle. I was expecting it to be just another anise liqueur with a different name slapped on it, like so many others. I was thoroughly pleased to be proven wrong. I think the lightness of this spirit and lack of sweetness opens the door to many unique applications that I wouldn't think of trying with Sambuca, or the like. I think it would go great with iced tea or ginger ale. Lets just hope that nobody comes up with the idea for a licorice mojito...blah!


  1. good info, thanks

  2. Arak is the best drink EVER!

  3. Wife just bought a bottle. Mixed with a little water the way I was taught by Middle Eastern friends growing up...good; shot by itself...bad, just stopped hickuping.

  4. 3arag zu3mot is the best 3arag there is - so smooth and lite like this blog describes. really one of the best drinks out there.