This week, Rosie Schapp wrote in the New York Times that Pastis (and all its anise-flavored analogues) are like soccer, "Something of indisputable greatness that is better appreciated elsewhere in the world than it is here." For me, it goes further: these are things I feel I should love, but I just don't totally get it.
I only watch soccer during the World Cup, and I like just a hint of Pastis/Ouzo/Arak in a cocktail––I'm not yet drinking it with just ice water. But there's at least one anise-inflected drink I make in which Arak is balanced with citrus, mint, and a hint of black tea. In Volume 3 of Sweets & Bitters, Devra Ferst transports us to a Tel Aviv Beach with recipes for an Israeli brunch, and this is the cocktail from that story.
Arak Around The Clock
makes 1 cocktail
- 1 1/2 ounces gin
- 1/2 ounce arak
- 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice, strained
- 1/2 ounce black tea syrup (recipe follows), or simple syrup
- 1/4 ounce Branca Menta
- handful mint leaves, stems removed
- small mint leaf (for garnish)
1. Combine all the ingredients, except the garnish, in a cocktail shaker. Gently muddle
the mint a few times (too much muddling produces an bitter or muddy flavor). Fill the shaker to the brim with ice, seal, and shake hard, until nearly too cold to touch.
2. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. If you don’t want bits of mint in your drink, hold a fine mesh strainer over the glass to double strain. Garnish with one small mint leaf.
Head to a liquor store in a neighborhood with a large Middle Eastern population to find arak. If you can’t get arak, ouzo or pastis are fine substitutes.
Black Tea Syrup
- 6 Tablespoons loose black tea leaves
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
Steep the tea leaves in the just-boiled water for 4 minutes, strain, and stir in the sugar. If the sugar is not dissolving, heat the syrup gently, stirring constantly, until it dissolves. Keep refrigerated.