Arak – that much maligned and much loved beverage from the east of Bali- comes from humble beginnings. We decided to go and hunt down some arak stills and see how the refeshing liquor is made.
Every country has some kind of homemade firewater and Bali is no exception. Scotland has its whiskies, Nepal has its rakshi, India has its feni, Kentucky has its bourbon and Europe Eau de Vie, has too many to mention, each county or province producing its own wickedly alcoholic versions.
In Bali, some factories produce legal arak, which can be found in supermarkets and bars all over the south. Unfortunately the legal arak comes from coconut palms and is reportedly vastly inferior to that produced from the ental (lontar) or jaka palms and even from cashew fruit.
Where the coconut variety does little more than make you tipsy, the better quality araks make you want to get up and dance, laugh, have a good time. Your blood starts rushing faster, and feelings of good will overcome you.
The basic material is tuak, collected in the morning and evening from the bruised fruit of the palms. The already alcoholic liquid can be drunk immediately or left to ferment before being taken to a still and transmorgified into that magical beverage.
The tuak is boiled on a fire and the alcoholic steam is collected then directed into bamboo pipes to cool before it drips into the plastic containers. Village made arak contains none of the deadly methanol that may be found in brews of the anonymous back street producers of Denpasar.
After all they would not want to kill off their customers, would they!