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MxMo LVIII — Favorite Niche Spirits

theSpeakista finds himself coming off a fantastic little vacation on a desert island; work is progressing some what nicely; family … perfect.  He thinks that smooth sailing is ahead and then it dawns on him that yes, we are upon our next Mixology Monday.  Time flies when you are focused on Manhattan’s — this month’s MxMo is hosted by Filip over at his Adventures in Cocktails site and Filip has selected a rather interesting but very inviting subject … your Favorite Niche Spirit.  Having mentally agreed to pick myself up and take up Filip’s challenge, I sit here scratching my head wondering if even in today’s market craziness, can any spirit really be a “niche” spirit?

It is likely the case that those brave soles submitting entries and those fans of the drink who will be reading these entries will find very few spirits that are not already on a cocktail geek’s radar (geek used in the best possible way here … as I am one).  What is one to select?  As a lover of all things scotch related, I feel safe in saying that recipe-wise, my beloved spirit is probably a “niche” spirit.  Rather than be bold and select it I have opted instead to highlight a spirit that I have come to appreciate and in a weird sense, crave — in this case, we go with Batavia Arrack.  You got it, that quirky, funky (my go-to adjective to use in such cases) rum-like ancestor with a totally unique aroma and equally off the beaten track taste.  With so many options to select why choose this one?  Simple, I think it fits the bill pretty well – known by many but not an all together often used spirit; likely completely unknown by non-cocktail geeks and as such, worthy of showcasing its many uses.

Batavia Arrack is distilled in Indonesia and is similar to rum as it is distilled from sugar cane.  At the outset of the fermentation process, fermented red rice is combined with local yeast to give a unique flavor and smell to the distillate.  It is these interesting smell and flavor characteristics that can make the spirit challenging to use in a drink.  For this go around we have decided to use it in a few different ways with the goal of highlighting its versatility (yep, you heard it here first … it is a versatile spirit if used properly).  Most times you will likely see Arrack used as a supporting character in small doses, as an accent flavor.  Not so in the below selected drinks — our aim, go full bore and use it as a key ingredient.

The first two drinks offered below by your humble correspondent are variations on classic drinks with the third being my attempt to create something all-together unique. Let’s see how our little journey into “niche” goodness progresses.

Batavia Arrack Daiquiri

Rum and citrus pair so wonderfully well in this classic “sour” that it seemed natural to sub in the Arrack and declare victory.  Not so simple!  As with most tampering of well honed recipes, it took several attempts to find the proper balance of sweet, sour and funky.  My normal daiquiri recipe is one that tends towards the sweeter side (thanks Stevi) as I feel it layers in the rum better, but with the boldness of the Arrack, tart works well.  In experimenting a bit with the recipe it became clear that the typical simple syrup formulation of one-to-one is much too light in texture and flavor.  Instead, we subbed in cane syrup which imparted a supple mouth feel and richer, deeper layer of sweetness against the spirit and citrus.  Feeling a little cheeky when sampling various attempts of this drink, I used a small punch of pomegranate molasses which not only added an interesting twist on the drink’s aroma but layered in additional sweetness and tang.  By my taste buds (so discount if you so desire), this little drink is pretty good — the Arrack’s natural characteristics are quite evident but not dominate as they are balanced nicely by a heavy dose of tart and light sweetness.

Arrakis Daiquiri
Recipe adapted by theSpeakista based on original inspiration provided by Phil Ward’s “Daiquiri with Benefits” … thank you Phil for the continued inspiration

•    2 oz Batavia Arrack
•    3/4 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
•    3/4 oz cane syrup
•    1 tsp pomegranate molasses
Garnish: none
Glass: cocktail coupe or glass
Tools: mixing glass and tin, Hawthorne strainer and tea strainer

Assembly: Add all of the ingredients to the mixing glass/tin and shake with plenty of ice until very cold.  Double-strain the mixture into the serving glass and serve up.

Re-Imagined Pina Colada

I have long been a fan of Asian inspired food and flavors.  In particular, theSpeakista is a huge eater of all things Thai food related.  Savory, citrusy, spicy — flavors that sing in the mouth. Originally when thinking through possible victims for this MxMo, we hadn’t even thought of doing a riff on that old guard (Isaac Washington would be so proud) drink but a perfect storm of events (a recent vacation on a tropical island and fantastic food) got my creative juices flowing.

The below riff was my fanciful way of trying to capture (once again) the Thai flavors that I so love in food into an Arrack-based drink. How so … by using, infusing, muddling or some how incorporating key ingredients such as chilies, basil, ginger, coconut and citrus in a mixture.  These powerful flavors in their own right seemed on paper to somehow possibly make sense against the bold assertiveness of the Arrack.  I think that we achieve a modicum of success in that the uniqueness of the Arrack still comes forth and each of the various Thai-like components is surprisingly balanced against one another. If I had to do this all over again, I wouldn’t be so lazy and would break out the blender and give the mixture a whirl, straining the resulting slurry over the crushed ice.

Let us know what you think?

Arrack-a-Colada (the Re-Imagined Pina Colada)
Recipe created and/or adapted by theSpeakista

•    3 oz red chili-infused Batavia Arrack (see note below)
•    2 oz coconut cream
•    1/2 oz basil-infused cane syrup (see note below)
•    1 barspoon Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur
•    8 to 9, one-inch pieces/chunks/etc. of fresh pineapple
Garnish: large sprig of basil
Glass: ice cold Collins glass
Tools: mixing glass and tin, Hawthorne strainer, barspoon, muddler and tea strainer

Assembly: Muddle the pineapple and cane syrup together in the mixing glass until the pineapple is broken down and the juice has been rendered.  Add the remaining ingredients to the mixing glass together with plenty of crushed ice and shake hard and well for at least one minute (pausing to gather your breath as needed … I sure did need a rest or two).  Double-strain the mixture into the serving glass which has been filled with crushed ice.  Garnish and consume with thoughts of a tropical beach not that far out of your reach …

Red Chili-Infused Batavia Arrack: split one red chili length wise and add to a cup of the Arrack. Let steep for an hour; remove the chili and any seeds that have been left behind and use as needed.

Basil-Infused Cane Syrup:  Muddle three or four large basil leaves in three ounces of cane syrup and let steep for 15 minutes.  Remove the basil and use when/as needed.

Our original thought … creativity on the boozy, stirred front

Finally, we arrive at the drink or at least the concept of a drink I had originally planned to use as the star of my post (before I got too adventurous and thought to post three different drinks).  Thus far, we have explored the versatility of this “niche” spirit in a classic “sour” formulation and in an infusion-based, creamy format.  What is missing though is a straightforward presentation … a classic stirred drink.

The Stitches on the Fast Ball is my attempt, after a little refining, to show how the Arrack survives perfectly well when it is upfront and center stage and while I was perfectly content to re-offer a fantastic old standby, I knew what we needed was something new.  The below final recipe offering went through a series of tweaks including different supporting spirits and amari.  It became clear that Arrack pairs nicely with tequila, gin, pisco and even scotch.  The final variation of the recipe not only is fantastic taste-wise but in a sense offers us a great little two-fer … two “niche” spirits in one little drink.  The drink seems to work — the varied flavors are tamed nicely into a cohesive drink.  I find that the subtle sweetness of the grape flavored pisco partners perfectly with the Arrack and the added complexity offered by the amaro and sherry.

Stitches on the Fast Ball
Recipe created (he thinks) by theSpeakista

•    2 oz Batavia Arrack
•    1/2 oz Encanto Pisco
•    1/2 oz Lustau East India Solera Sherry
•    1/2 oz Meletti amaro
Garnish: orange or lemon twist
Glass: double-old fashioned glass
Tools: mixing glass, barspoon, and julep strainer

Assembly: Combine all of the ingredients in the mixing glass and stir with plenty of ice until well chilled.  Strain the mixture into the serving glass that contains a large cubed ice cube. Garnish. Sip and repeat process over and over and over ………

There you have it … our little entry into “niche” spirits exploration.  Hopefully you find the above recipes intriguing enough to give at least one a try (the “Stitches” will be well worth it I promise) and then further sample Arrack.  Thanks again Filip for hosting the event and be sure to get over to his site to check out the other entries.

Next up for theSpeakista, our week long exploration into julep making bliss.

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{ 6 comments… add one }

  • Dagreb June 19, 2011, 7:01 pm

    Keith, you’ve really hit the nail on the head about what niche means, “known by many but not an all together often used spirit; likely completely unknown by non-cocktail geeks.” You’ve also piqued my interest. However, the only arrack brand available around here is Mendis Bianco, a 100% coconut arrack. I expect this produces an altogether different funk than the sugar cane & red rice of Batavia…

    Cheers!

  • KeithP June 20, 2011, 6:19 pm

    Thank you. Where are you at (are you able to get Batavia online?)?

    Checked out your recipe and it looked interesting. will have to pick up a bottle of Metaxa.

  • Dagreb June 21, 2011, 9:58 am

    No online booze for me. It’s all handled by a government entity.

  • Filip June 30, 2011, 5:09 pm

    Some great recipes on here Keith, will have to give them a go. What’s your thought on the Meletti, I have yet to try that Amaro. Take care

  • KeithP June 30, 2011, 8:58 pm

    Hey Filip — I like the Meletti quite a bit (truth be told i’m a bit of an amari nut); it is not as in your face as say the Nardini or a Cynar; some what understated in a mix but pairs perfectly with tequila, rum and my beloved scotch.

  • Paul March 19, 2014, 4:28 pm

    Hello ! I have just acquired a bottle of arrak from Indonesia and it’s great to read about these receipes which I will definitely try. Do you think the Meletti can be substituted for Lucano or Averna or maybe even Punt e Mes in “Stitches on the Fast Ball” ?

    Evidently there are two types af arak-one from Iraq or the Middle East more similar to raki or ouzo and the one from the Far East- which is spelt arrak ( ? ) Do you have more information on its origin and name ?

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