A few days ago I made a trip over to my favorite (big kids) candy store- Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa, which doesn’t just have one of the finest wine selections in California, but also one of the finest liquor selections. I don’t know whether it’s their self service tasting bar, their extensive underground caves (bring your jacket), or their amazing supply of hard to find spirits that gets my heart racing and empties my wallet every time I visit, but this time was no exception.
I was trying to locate some Peychaud’s bitters when I met Forrest, the store’s own liquor guru. We got to talking, and the conversation quickly settled on his homemade Pimento Dram endeavors. It was while he was describing the trials he went through to locate Jamaican allspice berries that I knew I had met my new go-to man for obscure and forgotten spirits. He informed me, with an excited look of approval seeking anticipation on his face, that something very rare and special had just come in, and that I might like to take a look. I took the bait, not wanting to disappoint him, and he ran off to fetch the bottle. When he returned, grinning ear to ear, holding a dark green bottle with the care you might see in a new father, he pronounced, “Batavia-Arrack”.
To tell you the truth, I’d never heard of Pimento Dram nor Batavia-Arrack until that day, but I’m always game for new things, and this guy impressed me with his passion and knowledge of all things booze. According to Forrest, for the first time in many many years, Batavia-Arrack, a rare and exotic spirit imported from the island of Java Indonesia via a blending plant in Amsterdam and a bottling plant in Austria, has been reintroduced to the U.S. market thanks to the fine folks over at Haus Alpenz. The product is painstakingly distilled, so it goes, from a mixture of sugar cane and fermented Java red rice using pot stills and ancient Chinese methods to produce a distinctive high proof spirit reminiscent of a spicy, smoky cachaca. “It’s an ingredient indispensable”, Forrest informed me, “to the adventurous mixologist trying to recreate such things as Swedish Punsch from scratch”.
Well, you may laugh, but I was sold on it. I forked over a hefty $31 bucks for the bottle (available online from Hi-Time Cellars here), and left the store with a strange bottle of hootch and a photocopied list of some drinks to be made with it.
I chose to make the Swedish Punsch recipe from the list because it’s the most common use of Batavia-Arrack, and it went something like this:
Produces enough for two small cocktail glasses
- 2 oz Batavia-Arrack
- 1/2 oz Rum
- 3/4 oz Fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 oz Simple syrup (2:1 sugar and water)*
- 3 oz Water
- Ground cardamom or nutmeg
- Lemon twist
- Combine Batavia-Arrack, rum, lemon juice, simple syrup, water, and spices in a shaker.
- Stir until well chilled.
- Strain into a vintage (small) cocktail glass.
- Add the twist of lemon.
- Try preparing this recipe hot instead of chilled (pre-19th century style).
- Try it over ice in a rocks glass.
- Try using it in other cocktails.
- Try replacing the spices and simple syrup with the spiced (not so simple) syrup recipe bellow:
Spiced (not so simple) Syrup:
- 2 cups Demerara sugar
- 1 cup water
- 6 whole cloves
- 8 cardomom pods broken open and lightly crushed
- 3 sections of a star anise broken open
- 1 small cinnamon stick broken up
- just a little grated nutmeg (less than 1/16th of a tsp.)
- a little ground ginger
- 1/16th tsp. ground cardamon
- 1/2 vanilla bean split open
- Combine everything in a saucepan.
- Bring to a low boil stirring constantly for two minutes.
- Shut off heat, and cover for two hours.
- Add an ounce of vodka to help preserve.
- Strain through a sieve.
- Store in a cool dark place for later use.