Batavia Arrack is an unusual spirit from Indonesia, made by distilling sugarcane and red rice. The spirit became popular during the 17th century when spice traders from the Dutch East India Company discovered the spirit and began bringing it back to Europe, where it found a use as an ingredient to the most popular style of mixed drinks at the time – punches. Indeed today the most common drink containing Batavia Arrack is Swedish Punsch, a punch-style liqueur popular in Nordic countries.
While commonly found in many punch recipes from the 18th and 19th centuries, few modern cocktails call for Batavia Arrack. Part of this reason is that until recently it was very hard to find outside of its native country. Eric Seed of Haus Alpenz solved that problem last year when he released Batavia Arrack van Oosten – a Batavia Arrack made to David Wondrich’s specifications in an attempt to replicate a traditional Arrack that would have been used in punches.
The other reason is that Batavia Arrack is… well frankly not very nice on its own. Batavia Arrack van Oosten comes in at 100 proof, and has a fiery taste that doesn’t hide that. It is also malty and funky, and most definitely not a spirit you would drink straight. With such strong and pungent flavours it’s also not something that mixes very easily – the few modern recipes I’ve seen use it as a modifier rather than the base of the drink. After getting hold of a bottle and briefly playing with it I quickly got distracted with other bright, shiny things and my Batavia Arrack soon found its way to the back of my shelf.
- 1½ shot / 50 ml / 1½ oz Batavia Arrack
- 1 shot / 30 ml / 1 oz lime juice
- ½ shot / 15 ml / ½ oz crème de cacao
- ½ shot / 15 ml / ½ oz sugar syrup
- 2 bar-spoons fennel seeds
- Shake all ingredients with ice and fine strain in to a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cacao powdered rim (not pictured).
However a few months back Eric Seed happened to be in town so we met up for a cocktail or three, eventually finding ourselves at The Connaught Bar. Erik Lorincz, one of their (many) great bartenders was eager to show Eric a drink he had made using Batavia Arrack – a then unnamed drink that is now called the Dutch East Indies Daisy. Upon trying the drink it was easy to understand Erik’s keenness.
The lime perfectly tones down the Batavia Arrack, levelling out the harshness and helping to bring out the complex flavours of the spirit. Behind the strong sour and Arrack base the subtle chocolate notes of the crème de cacao and anise notes of the fennel seed accent the drink nicely. Apparently Batavia Arrack is often used in the chocolate industry, and I can see why.
A bold cocktail that makes most other sour-type drinks seem a bit bland, the Dutch East Indies Daisy has forced me to reevaluate Batavia Arrack, and I’m looking forward to trying some other recipes that make use of this most unusual spirit.
Anyone have a favourite Batavia Arrack recipe?
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