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Arak: Middle Eastern Alcoholic Beverage

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Arak is a distilled alcoholic drink favored in the Middle East. Commonly used in social settings, the drink is famous for its potency, and the milky-white color it turns when water is added to it. Arak has a high alcohol content, so water and ice is almost always added, producing the drink nick-named, “the milk of lions,” in the Middle East.

What Does Arak Taste Like?

Arak is typically made from grapes, though dates, sugar, plums, figs, and molasses can be used depending on the region where it is made. Though Arak in its pure form is colorless, the clear liquid is aniseed-flavored. Aniseed is added to the distilled alcohol during the second of three distillation processes. The ratio of aniseed to alcohol can vary which results in different qualities of arak, but the strength of the drink usually falls between 30%-60%.

Where to Buy Arak?

Arak can be purchased in the U.S. in many Middle Eastern markets. Arak may also be found at local liquor stores.

When is Arak Served and Served With?

Arak is most commonly served in social settings or gatherings, such as dinner parties, restaurants and night clubs. Traditionally, the drink is served with mezze, or small bits of food, which the guests consume to help hinder the potency of the alcohol. Arak goes hand in hand with these mini-meals so that in the case of a dinner party or restaurant, the main dish is hardly touched.

It is not only what the drink is served with so much as it is how it is served. While water and ice are normally added, ice should never be added first. Ice causes a film to produce on the top of the liquid that is seen as unpleasing, so adding water first turns the drink a milky color and inhibits the effects of ice alone. Using multiple glasses when drinking arak is also common, due to the effects of mixing with water and ice. Middle Eastern restaurants will usually provide several glasses for their customers when serving arak.
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