Ksarak arak at Arabesque

By Thomas Hammond
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Photo by Thomas Hammond
what: Ksarak arak
where: Arabesque
cost: $7 per glass

The tradition of viticulture in Lebanon dates back at least five millennia to the Phoenician civilization, and evidence suggests winemaking was happening in the area as far back as 8000 B.C. The steep Mount Lebanon range can be a difficult place for traditional agriculture. It is, however, a fantastic climate for grapes.

Along with wine also comes a proud tradition of arak, a clear, unsweetened anise-flavored alcoholic drink distilled from grapes and popular across the Middle East. Arak emerged out of the practical need to do something with substandard grapes or wine that is about to go bad. The best arak is made from obeideh, a Lebanese white grape, and is flavored with aniseed from the Syrian village of Hina, where the climate is just right.

If you can’t make it to Lebanon anytime soon, your next best option is a visit to Arabesque on Devine Street, where the staff will show you how to properly serve and consume arak. On this occasion, they recommended Ksarak from Château Ksara of the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon’s oldest and biggest winery.

Arak should be paired with Lebanese mezze, small plates of food such as baba ghanoush, tabbouleh, olives, stuffed grape leaves and kibbeh. The full-bodied alkaline flavor of the drink helps to mediate the acidity of these dishes.

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