Arak or Raki

For a Greek "raki" alembic still see:

Roger is still working on improving the following method for making Arak ..
    Arak is the national alcoholic drink of Lebanon. It is a distillate from grape alcohol and aniseed similar to Ouzo, but without sugar and gum mastic added...

    Crush grapes, allow to ferment completely, distill alcohol. Clean pot still and redistill alcohol (which I run through activated charcoal), return alcohol which is about 150 proof to the still adding one third the volume of alcohol, water plus 2 pounds of aniseed per gallon of alcohol. The aniseed is kept whole and is soaked in hot alcohol in the still the day prior to distillation. Distill a third time.

    What I get is a distillate that is 170 proof which is diluted with distilled water to 100 proof (if the proof is less than 100, Arak turns cloudy). It is aged in pottery crocks for a month. Another method is to blend 190 proof alcohol with anis oil (produced in Spain).

From about Ouzo ..
    The island of Chios, known as the cradle of spices and aromas, produces a variety of soft and smooth ouzo, which depends on the recipe used. The traditional ingredients include glykanissos (aniseed) combined with maratho (fennel), koliandro (cilantro) and the unique mastic.

    Clearly disassociated from the local tsipouro (raki) and from souma (suma), which is mainly produced by figs. Chian ouzo is still distilled primarily in the small copper stills (kazania) of traditional family manufacturers.

    The classic Greek drink Ouzo begins as alcohol made from grape skins or other local produce. It is then brought together with herbs and other ingredients, including star anise, coriander, cloves, angelica root and even cinnamon and lime blossom. The mixture is boiled in a copper still and regulated by a taster. The resulting liquid is cooled and stored for several months before it is diluted to about 80 proof or 40 percent alcohol. However, homemade ouzo can be a deliriously strong 80 percent alcohol.

    Ouzo is usually served as an aperitif, but is also used in some mixed drinks and cocktails. When mixing Ouzo with water, it turns whitish and opaque. The reason is that the anise oil dissolves and becomes invisible when mixed with a conventional alcohol content, but as soon as the alcohol content is reduced, the essential oils transform into white crystals, which you cannot see through.

Wal writes ...
    Anise flavored spirits: Arak (Lebanon),Raki(Turkey,Crete), Tsikoudia (Crete), Tsipouro, Ouzo (Greece), Ojen (Spain), Pastis (France) -

    Arak, Raki, Ojen is distilled from grape pomace in alembic stills capable of holding 40-130kg. to which aniseed is added. I gather the proportion is approx. 500g/25l of wash.

    Saw in 'Lebanese Cuisine' by Anissa Helou, 1994, on p.35 a method for Arak
    • First a white wine is distilled.
    • To 100 litres of this 'low wine' distillate, 10 kg of aniseed and 50 l of water are added and redistilled. (This corresponds to 100 g of aniseed/litre alc.)
    • Then more aniseed (amount not given) and half the amount of water (25 l) is added and redistilled.
    • This process is repeated 2 more times (4 distillations in total) to get a 60%abv product. I gather the amount of water is half each previous amount.
    The approx. volume of 60%abv from 100 l of low wine is 20 l. The essential oil yield of aniseed is about 2%, but assuming there is much loss due to the distillation method, we could assume 1%. Therefore the amount of anise essential oil (from the 10-20? kg of aniseed used) in 1 litre of the 60%abv Arak is between 5 ml and 20 ml or 1tsp-4tsp (100-400 drops). I would say 1tsp of esential oil/litre 60%abv is sufficient.

    Ouzo has other herbs and spices added such as coriander, cardamon angelica root, cloves, fennel, nutmeg, mastic, tillium flowers. It is usually distilled once (40% a.b.v.) or sometimes twice (60% a.b.v.). I suspect the aniseed was originally added to mask the roughness, as no thermometer was used to control the distillation.

    In Turkey they now use shredded raisins (70% sugar), instead of grape pomace. To reconstitute a grape wash use 2kg unsulphured raisins/5l water. First they produce a raisin distillate to which aniseed is added (approx.100g/l of spirit) and a second distillation is carried out. Aniseed gives a 3% oil yield. Sugar and water is added and it is aged for a month. Arak (from grape pomace) is aged in clay pots for up to year & a 3% evaporation loss occurs. Anisette and Sambucca are sweet aniseed based liquers.

Jack writes ...
    The old arabic word for "juice" (araq) gives us the name for a seemingly misunderstood class of spirits. Most of the time this name is given to a distillate made up with a mash of fermented palm sap, and/or some rice. It is also made from (more recently) figs, dates, raisins, and plums. It can be found (most often) in an unaged (white) state, typically at a high strength. In the west it is mostly encountered in the form known as "raki" - a fruit wash (as those listed above), flavored with aniseed. Rarely it can be found unflavored and cask-aged, following the tradition of fine brandies. It is most common in the Balkan countries of southeastern Europe, as well as the Middle East and north Africa. It is most often had as an aperitif, but if you are lucky enough to find (or make) a mellow bottle, it is better at the end of a meal, after coffee.

    Here are my 2 favorite methods of making this drink:

    1 (cheap, but very good:1 US gallon recipe)): soak in enough water to cover them (overnight) 2 pounds of raisins- after the soak, blend them into a mush in a blender, and pour this sludge into your fermentor. Add 1/4teaspoon of powdered tannin and one teaspoon of acid blend to the raisin sludge. Boil a gallon of water on the stove and dissolve 2 pounds of sugar in it, once the sugar is dissolved, and the water is boiling, pour the hot water onto the raisin sludge. Allow to cool on it's own, and when cool, add 1/2teaspoon of pectic enzyme, and yeast (I use Lavlin k1v-1116 in both of these recipes). Ferment till dry, distill when clear. Distill in a potstill (or a stovetop inverted lid chinese type still) to about 50% (the total run) stop if tails show up before this. Dilute to where you want it and drink (note-copper is essential in the still when making these drinks!!).

    2 (fancy, great taste, not one you advertise, lest you have to share it. one gallon recipe). Soak 6 pounds of raisins overnight, blend into a mush, then add 1tablespoon of acid blend. Bring a gallon of water to a boil, and pour it hot over the raisins in the fermentor-no sugar is added (no tannin either- the acid blend is to balance the fact that table grape raisins lack winegrape varietal acidity, and tend to make a "flabby", one-dimensional brandy on their own). Once cool, add 1/2teaspoon of pectic enzyme and the yeast (same as above). Ferment till dry, distill when clear. Distill the same way as above.

    Distilling in a reflux still with it's packing removed to lower effeciency also makes a great spirit from these two "wines"- By the way- no solids are put in the still- the wine is totally clear when it is distilled. It is best if the fruit wines (they are stable wines, capable of being aged and bottled, if you want) are allowed to mellow a bit before they are distilled (mine is a year old before it goes into the still). On their own, they make very nice dry wines with a sherry taste to them (I tend to prefer them distilled, personally).

    Almost forgot, during fermentation, the raisin pulp rises to the surface. It will dry out and harbor bacteria if not broken up. You need to mash down and stir in the "cap" that the raisins form at least twice a day. Also, resist the temptation to boil the raisins directly- you can pour boiling water on them, but don't boil them on their own- the wine (and spirit) that comes out if you boil them tastes like Christmas pudding- pretty gross.
Wal adds ...
    Seeing that a source of the method of makin arak and quantities used is rare, I will quote the 'Distilling Raki' from 'Rayess Art of Lebanese Cooking' by George N. Rayess, which I found in Google group soc.culturelebanon.

    • Grapes are gathered and are crushed and put with all their elements (seeds, stems, juice etc...) into wells or wooden barrels or glazed earthernware barrels stored inside. It is stirred well once a day for 15 days until it ferments. The sign of that is the appearance of foam on top of it. Then discontinue stirring and leave it set till no more foam appears and the top of the juice appears clear by the rest of the elements having settled at the bottom.
    • Now pour all the mixture into the distilling vessel, the 'karaki'. Distil over very low heat until all alcohol is drawn out of it. Now pour out all the remains in the karaki and wash it well. The next day, pour in the karaki the following proportions:
    • For each 6 gallons of alcohol, add 4 gallons of water and 11 pounds of aniseed. Stir all this well then seal the karaki well with flour paste or dough so that none of the steam may escape. Put the karaki over low heat and when it starts dripping, cut off heat for 24 hours until aniseed is well soaked in the alcohol. Then put on high heat until it starts distilling, then reduce heat until arak starts dripping with quick but disconnected drops. Water in top part of karaki must remain cool throughout entire operation before it gets hot.
    • When the color of arak starts turning white, put aside what has already been distilled. Increase heat and repeat the operation. Distilling is stopped when the amount of alcohol in the arak has become very weak. The last portions distilled are added to the first portions.
    • Arak is stored in large containers painted on the inside. Store for three months or longer until it has cleared and mellowed. If stored in glass containers, it requires over four months for it to become good enough for use. At this point add enough water to reduce the rate of alcohol so that its content measures 21 according to an alcohol measure."

    As a rough estimate this might be equivalent to 200 grams of aniseed for 1 litre of 40%abv or 1/2 tsp of aniseed oil/litre 40%abv assuming an essential oil yield of 1.5%.

    Moroccan 'Mahia'

    In Tunisia the local specialties are 'Boukha' or fig brandy (eau-de- vie de figue) and a date liqueur called 'Thibarine' (possibly named after the Thibar mountains?). What about those contemplating to go to Morocco? 'Mahia' is the local Moroccan spirit. A 1848 source says that it is distilled from dates, although it could be a local generic name for an eau-de-vie made from various things. Like the Lebanese 'Arak' it is anise flavored. The Turkish 'Raki' which is similar to Arak was once made from grape pomace but these days is made from raisins. Mulberries were sometimes used also. "The restaurant sometimes has available mahia, or home-made l'eau de vie, the anise-flavored drink for which Moroccan Jews are well-known." 'Jewish Morocco' Dates are a good source of sugar (70%), so I decided to make my own Mahia using dates which I obtained at the equivalent of $US1.50/kg or about $US1/lb. A malt extract (70% sugars) costs double that price. I made a mash giving the equivalent of 300 g sugar/l, using Lalvin EC- 1118 yeast which can tolerate 18%abv:

    Moroccan 'Mahia' (20 litres or 5 US gal)
    • 5 kg (11 lbs) dates - washed and sterilized with boiling water (This amount of dates is equivalent to 3.5 kg of sugar.)
    • 2.5 kg sugar (5.5 lbs) (The dates and added sugar gives the equivalent of 300 g/l sugar.)
    • 1 kg crushed aniseed (This amount of aniseed would give the equivalent of about 200 g/l of aniseed to the final alcohol of 50%abv.)
    • 40 g Lalvin EC-118 yeast
    • 20 g DAP yeast nutrient
    I decided to use the crushed aniseed in a single distillation as I would be producing a distillate of 75%abv which should still retain a lot of flavor.     This page last modified Mon, 05 Mar 2012 08:07:08 -0800