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Arak! The Amazing Levantine Spirit is What Your Cocktail is Missing

When the seasons change, your drinks should too. And sometimes that change should be more pronounced than transitioning from summer’s vodka and gin cocktails to the more autumnal bourbon and Scotch. That’s where arak comes in.

A traditional beverage distilled in the Levant, arak has a distinct anise flavor, not so unlike its European cousin, absinthe. It’s most often imbibed by diluting it with water and, like absinthe, that addition causes the spirit to take on a translucent, milky appearance.

The Levantine sip also makes a fine addition to cocktails. Surprisingly, its smack of licorice complements citrus juices and enlivens drinks both warm and cold. Want to give it a shot in your drinks? Get a bottle of your own and put it to work.

1. Pink Grapefruit Arak Cocktail


A ubiquitous summertime drink in Israel, this rosy sipper combines arak with pink grapefruit juice, chamomile simple syrup and mint. It’s a refreshing way to sample the spirit. Get the recipe.

2. Habayit Cocktail


The grapefruit-and-anise combination continues with the Habayit Cocktail from Forward. The two base ingredients are blended with sugar, sour mix (lemon and more sugar) and sage leaves for a savory-sweet cocktail that pairs well with food. If that’s not your jam, try Forward’s cleverly named bourbon-and-arak–spiked Saz-Arak, instead. Get the recipe.

3. Kubbeh Libre


Grapefruit not your thing? Break off that bitter relationship in favor of a citrus that’s a little more sweet: the pomelo. Inside the never-ending rind, the fruit’s flesh is mild. Mix it with a little arak and garnish with mint for a delightful Levantine treat. Get the recipe.

4. Arak and Lemonade Ice


Sometimes it’s really hard to let go of summer. Breakup gently with this arak-laced granita. Lemonade syrup with a hint of orange blossom water is mixed with arak and poured over shaved ice. Serve this boozy freeze with sugar-coated chickpeas—a common Middle Eastern confection. Get the recipe.

5. Beirut Cocktail

For the more adventurous drinkers, there’s the Beirut Cocktail—a warming blend of arak, Scotch, green tea, lemon juice and orange bitters. It still capitalizes on arak’s affair with all things citrus, but does it in a way that appeals to those dreary autumn days. Get the recipe.