It’s swizzling time again folks but this time we’re transplanting this Caribbean classic all the way across the world to make an “East Indies” version. Yes, today our base spirit will be Batavia Arak [sound of needle scratching across record]. OK then, let’s back up a little bit. Arrack/arak/arac is a bit of a minefield. First there is a Middle Eastern spirit called arak or araq that is an anise based drink and thus related to raki, ouzo, sambuca and pastis. But we’re not interested in that one right now. There are also other araks scattered across the Indian Ocean area that are completely different from the Middle Eastern variety – and each other. The spellings are all over the place and don’t really help us much either. Before we get totally tied in knots let’s just focus on the one we need: Batavia Arak from Indonesia (Batavia being the old colonial name for Jakarta). Batavia Arak is more of a rum cousin than any of the above, being made from molasses, but with a fermented red rice starter. It’s tasty stuff with a kind of beguiling funky sweetness. Although it can be hard to find it’s well worth seeking out. The one I can find is the superbly mixable Arac Java Baru imported to Amsterdam by A. van Wees – them wot make the Best Bitters in the World. Since we find ourselves out East we should test the “what grows together goes together” mantra that so rarely lets us down. Cinnamon, lime and the wonderfully aromatic kaffir lime leaves would be a good start. Maybe a little ginger? And some Peruvian bitters. Hey, rules are made to be broken, right? At the core we’re just using the basic 2 strong, 1 sour, 1 sweet formula here but adding in some extra flavours along the way, but no so much as to overpower the personality of the arac. This one is a great summer drink and I’m breaking it out now in a desperate effort to bring about an (East) Indian summer. No luck with that so far…
2oz / 60ml Indonesian arak/arac (I used Arac Java Baru).
1oz / 30ml fresh lime juice.
1oz / 30ml cinnamon syrup†.
2 dashes Amargo Chuncho* (or another aromatic) bitters.
2 or 3 kaffir lime leaves (from a Thai or Chinese grocery).
Swizzle with crushed ice and garnish with a piece of ginger and a kaffir lime leaf.
Toast the arak distillers of Indonesia. Nice work guys!
† or just under if using my cinnamon syrup recipe.
*I like to float a couple more dashes of Chuncho on top as it is quite a mild bitter.
Note: Outside of the Netherlands you might find the stronger Van Oosten Batavia-Arrack easier to find.