What is Arak?
Arak is a Middle Eastern spirit made traditionally from grapes and flavored by aniseed. This is a very strong distilled spirit that usually hosts an alcohol level of 40-60% and must be diluted with water in order to drink it well. If you do not dilute the alcohol, the drink will be too strong and will probably give you a burning sensation on your throat and stomach.
It’s always suggested that you drink Arak in social setting rather than alone, as it is a drink that is traditionally enjoyed over plates of mezze, local appetizers of all types. Mezze and Arak go well together to help dull the effects of the alcohol without completely ruining the enjoyment of the drink.
BEST BRANDS OF ARAK
Considered as one of the premium Arak producers in the Middle East, El Massaya Arak is made from only the best local indigenous grapes and aniseed. It is triple distilled to ensure a well balanced and layered flavor which is pleasant to many people. Most of the bottles of Arak from El Massaya are allowed to age between 12 and 18 months in the traditional clay pots in order to get the taste and alcohol content correct for bottling.
This brand produces a blend of Arak that uses only the pure juice from the grapes without any skin or pulp. It is then distilled in France using a special method of distillation that helps the anise flavoring to blend in more smoothly and become much more pleasant and rich in taste. Once it has been distilled, Ksarak is aged for a minimum of two years before it is bottled and sold. It is found all over the Middle Eastern region and can bring a different perspective on Arak for those who are mostly familiar with harsh tastes and strong alcohol.
Zumot makes some very smooth varieties of Arak. It is a Lebanese company that produces a few different bottles of Arak, many of which have a lighter taste than their counterparts. This is great for different food pairings both in and outside of Lebanon. Even those who are not used to this spirit might find that Zumot brand Arak is much more drinkable than some other brands. It holds very little sweetness, making it a good choice for many different meals you may be taking.
Domaine des Tourelles
This brand is responsible for the most famous bottle of Arak in the world, the Arak Brun. Brun and other types from Domaine des Tourelles are made using mostly traditional processes that have been in existence for more than 100 years. It pairs well with various Middle Eastern mezze as well as even the similar Mediterranean mezza appetizers. You’ll find a certain softness to bottles from this brand, as there is no methanol included in any of their drinks.
Clos St. Thomas
From Clos St. Thomas you can expect to get a very rich and well balanced taste, due in part to the quadruple distillation process and the in depth fermentation process. More than other brands, this large family-owned brand focuses on creating the most flavor-rich and purely flavored drink possible by doing everything from start to finish with a level of detail not seen elsewhere. You can enjoy a variety of potent, yet scrumptious Araks from this brand.
Despite its somewhat French sounding name, the Chateau Nakad brand has been created for 3 generations in the Bekaa region of Lebanon. They make many types of wine and other liquors and spirits, but one of the most famous drinks from the brand is their Arak. What makes this Arak special is the ingredients that go into it. The best grapes, anise, and clean spring water are used to create an excellent blend of tastes which are very pure and crisp. Two years of aging helps to round out the drink and make it taste even more complete.
CHOOSING THE BEST ARAK FOR YOU
Many of the brands mentioned above are available all around the Middle East and possibly in Middle Eastern markets elsewhere in the world. Grab whichever bottle sounds the best to you and see if you can get a handle on the tastes you like best. If you aren’t a fan of one brand, move on to the next until you find something you like!