Arak, a byproduct of alchemy, has always been an essential part of the Lebanese tradition. Similar to Saki in Japan, Ouzo in Greece, and Vodka in Russia, Arak is known to be Lebanon’s cultural drink. Arak is not only Lebanon’s national drink. For many, it is a passion, to the point that most of the arak consumed in the country is not factory-produced, but home-distilled. Villagers in different parts of the country take pride in producing their own homemade arak, commonly known as arak baladeh.
Arak is made from Obeidi or Merwah grapes and aniseed. After the grape vines have matured, the grapes are harvested by hand between September and October, de-stemmed and crushed mechanically, then stored in barrels for 15 days to ferment.
After fermentation, the juice becomes wine, which undergoes triple distillation. The first distillation creates alcohol, the second removes impurities, and the third gives arak its unique qualities. Aniseeds are added during the second or third distillation.
Different types of stills can be used during distillation: stainless steel, copper, pot stills, and column stills. Even though each type of still affects the final taste of the arak, an authentic copper still is believed to give the alcohol its best flavor. The copper still ensures that the best aromas and flavors of the grape alcohol are evident. However, copper stills were so expensive in the past that only the wealthy were able to produce arak. It was an indication of success and sophistication. This is where Arak gets its name as Lebanon’s noble drink.
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Arak – Lebanon’s Noble Drink