Explore the cultural significance of arak, Indonesia’s traditional drink, and its revival in Bali. Discover how it is made, its health benefits, and its role in religious ceremonies.
Arak – Indonesia’s traditional, iconic alcoholic drink has gained quite a reputation over the years. Whether your first run-in with this popular beverage was in the 90s after nursing a sore head from one too many Bounty nightclub ‘Jungle Juices’ or having heard stories from family and friend’s Bali holiday anecdotes? There’s no denying that there has been many a Bali traveller who’s had their own run-in with this locally made spirit!
But did you know that there is more to arak than just being an ingredient to add some kick into your cocktail? For the Balinese, arak plays a very important role in their culture. For centuries, this odourless, clear liquor has been traditionally made from the fermented sap of rice or coconut palm, and its alcohol content usually ranges from 20% to 50% (sometimes even higher!) – so whether you choose to drink it straight or with a mixer, it can certainly pack a punch and put some real fire in your belly!
How is Arak made?
Arak is still made using a very traditional method throughout many of the villages in rural Bali. These age-old rituals have been handed down by ancestors – with palm-based arak using the sap of the coconut tree (tuak). The sap is harvested from the coconut flowers and then poured into a barrel where it is left to ferment, and mixed in with coconut husks. Later on, the liquid is distilled by pouring it into a coconut tree stump and heated over an open fire. Afterwards, you are left with the clear, liquid nectar which is called arak!
The important role Arak plays in Balinese Culture
The Balinese people believe that arak has many health benefits and often use it as a remedy for treating rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes. You may also see it being used to sprinkle over offerings and as a part of religious ceremonies, where it is poured on the ground as a gift to appease demons. Sometimes it is even mixed with authentic spices such as cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and lime to give it a distinct flavour and is often enjoyed by Indonesians both young and old, catching up on the daily gossip with their mates. Traditionally, rice workers would be sure to down a shot or two to warm up their bodies before heading into the fields for a long day’s work!
Unfortunately, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for this local rice wine, which has had some tough press over the years, with many a keen traveller finding themselves on the other end of an ‘Arak Attack’ after consuming one-too-many shots on a Kuta night out. But after a revamp of its image, it appears that this much-loved alcohol is making a comeback. The island has seen a surge in the production and demand for high-end arak and we were keen to find out more!
Safe & Delicious Arak Brands to try!
“ARAKÉ” is how the locals pronounce the traditional drink as a gesture of warmth and welcome. Using production methods handed down throughout the generations, ARAKÉ is meticulously processed from the finest palm sap, found only in Eastern Bali to create this premium quality arak. Whether you prefer your arak in a creamy Espresso Martini or a fruity Negroni – we’ve found it’s the perfect accompaniment to raise a glass to celebrate good friends and good times!
Arak Bali Dewi Sri
For those looking to enjoy it in a cocktail, or simply on its own, Arak Bali Dewi Sri is renowned for its high quality and authentically pure taste. This handcrafted arak is made from fermented glutinous white rice and its hint of sweetness is guaranteed to warm you from head to toe. If you’re looking for a truly genuine Balinese Arak experience – be sure to check this one out!
Made from fermented salak fruit, this premium natural arak is harvested straight from the local villages of Karangasem. Using traditional methods and twice distilled, Selaka Ning arak is a smooth and aromatic people-pleaser that is sure to make the perfect accompaniment to your favourite cocktail! With its medium-sweet finish and hint of honey, this handcrafted arak is certainly one to try!
Arak for everyone
From Arak first-timers to those looking to give this punchy little liquor another go, we hope that this article has shown you that there are certainly high-end premium Arak options out there for you to enjoy. And what could be a better memento of your time on the island, than by taking a bottle (or two) back home with you? It’s the ideal keepsake to crack out at the next family BBQ or catch up with mates, whilst you reminisce about your amazing Bali hols!