I note with interest that arak, ouzo, sambuca, and pastis all arrive at the same destination (more or less) by vastly different routes.
- Sambuca uses a grain alcohol like ethanol or moonshine, anise, elderberry, sugar, and water.
- Ouzo also starts with a pure grain alcohol (although many start with vodka), along with angelica root, mace, anise extract, sugar, and water.
- Pastis (which, it should be noted, was created in France after absinthe was made illegal) can include any one of about 50 different herbs and/or spices, but usually includes vodka, anise seeds, badiane, licorice, caraway, and sugar.
- Arak uses white grapes (or grape juice and yeast), anise seeds, water. The use of grapes/grape juice is the reason it is not considered kosher unless production is supervised by the proper authorities.
- As a side note, a variant of Arak produced in the US during prohibition (and afterward) uses gin instead of grape juice as the base liquid.*
To continue with the metaphor I started earlier, this is proof (of a kind) of how events that appear, on first taste, to be the same as others we may have experienced arise from a completely different set of causes. It’s a reminder that we cannot apply the same solution to two different problems even when they appear to be similar.
* as another side note, during prohibition federal officers would go after folks who made gin, but not those who turned the gin into arak because, and this is a direct quote, “that sh*t ain’t drinkable”
* as a final side note, in 1924 my grandfather had a profitable home-based business until someone tipped him off that he’d shown up on someone’s radar. At that point Yehudah Adatto got on a train in Seattle, and Leo Adato got off the train in New York City. The rest is history, but I submit that as proof my “screw the rules” tendencies are hereditary.