With multiple spellings (arrack, arak, araq) and countless styles, the world of arrack can be confusing. Arrack is a spirit originally from Southeast Asia, which can be made from sugarcane, coconut flower sap, rice, or fruit, depending on the country where it is made. Arrack can be clear or cloudy, mild or sweet, dark or light. In many parts of the world arrack is essentially moonshine, although there are a few producers that bottle arrack for large markets.
There are two types of arrack: Batavian and Ceylon. Batavia arrack is from the island of Java and is made with sugarcane, which makes it similar to rum. Unlike rum, however, fermented red rice is added to the mix, giving the finished spirit a funky finish. Batavia arrack is popular in Northern Europe due to the Dutch East India’s importation of arrack in the 19th century. Ceylon arrack is made by distilling palm sap. This type is more delicate than Batavian varieties and has a fresh, floral finish. These two styles are the most widespread, but there are many other varieties found in India and the Philippines.
Arrack can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or mixed into cocktails where it stands in well for rum. Batavia arrack is similar to rum agricole (rum made with freshly pressed sugarcane juice, not molasses) and pairs well with ginger beer or fresh fruit juices. Upgrade your classic punch recipe by substituting arrack for the rum.