What Is That Ingredient? (Part 3)

At Downtime Cocktails, we're not huge fans of black licorice flavors (fennel, anise, licorice root, etc.)—that's why Batch 22 does not feature them—but we understand that many of you cocktail enthusiasts out there do love a good black licorice blast. And that's fine. We don't love you any less. In fact, this week we're featuring three relatively unknown spirits that are all about the licorice, just to show you how much we care.

This clear, anise-forward spirit is made primarily from twice-distilled grapes. It's known as the national drink of Turkey, but it has a strong following in Greece, Albania, and many other Balkan countries as well.
In Turkey, raki is usually consumed with a side glass of chilled water, or it is partly mixed with chilled water, which turns it a translucent milky-white (raki is often called "lion's milk" in Turkey). Some drinkers prefer to add brown sugar and ice cubes as well.
Raki is most often served as an accompaniment to meze (a selection of hot and cold appetizers) or as a pairing with seafood. The founder and first president of Turkey, Mustafa Kamal Ataturk, was a huge raki enthusiast. Evidently, he consumed about half a liter of the stuff each day, which—at an average ABV of about 45%—eventually did him in. He died of cirrhosis of the liver at age 57. 

Like Raki, the popular Middle Eastern and Eastern Mediterranean spirit known as Arak is also a clear, anise-forward alcohol made from grapes and anise seeds.
Traditionally, Arak is also consumed with chilled water as an accompaniment, and also turns into a viscous, milky-white liquid when water is mixed in (this is sometimes called the "ouzo effect" but it also happens with absinthe and other spirits). The most common proportion of water to alcohol is one part Arak to two parts water.
 Most popular in Syria, Jordan, Israel, and Lebanon, Arak is typically consumed as an aperitif, but can also be found alongside meze dishes and grilled meats.

This anise-flavored spirit has its origins in France, where the famous alcohol producer Paul Ricard first developed it and commercialized it in 1932. Ricard also created and popularized Pernod, which is very similar to pastis, but with a less-pronounced licorice flavor. Pastis is quite popular throughout France but is especially celebrated in southern regions of the country, particularly in Marseilles.
Pastis usually clocks in between 40% and 45% ABV and contains a dose of sugar to balance its strong licorice flavor. Unlike its cousins Raki and Arak, Pastis is made with the addition of licorice root and is most often not clear. Caramel coloring is commonly used to give Pastis its distinct look.
It is not unusual for Pastis to be served neat (especially in Marseilles) but many fans enjoy it with some addition of water and/or ice (though ice is not a generally preferred addition). The French adore this spirit as an aperitif and will often have it as an accompaniment to briny olives, nuts, and shellfish and seafood dishes (in fact, many restaurants in Marseilles add a generous slug of Pastis to their bouillabaisse).
Among these three anise-centric spirits, you're likely to find Pastis most often at your local bar or restaurant. It can be used in a number of different cocktails, including a Whisky Sour and a Pastis Spritz, and also in classic French cocktails such as the Perroquet, Le Rourou, and La Tomate.