Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Bettah than Uzo!!

So I was doing some research for the drink menu. I took Tim and we went over to Saint Raymond's lunch a month or so ago. We are doing a drink after every ward. I wanted to do one in honor of Francis Slay Sr. Tim had some ideas, but I figured it would be best to go to the man himself and find out. We went over and had lunch. Saint Raymond's is the Lebanese Church in town and they have a huge lunch every Wednesday of authentic Lebanese food. All the connected people in town come from judges, to cops to hustlers. The priests walk around like they own the joint, and they pretty much do. They wear large gold crosses and one of them even wears an extra felty fedora. They are very cool. I have gotten a tour from Father Andre and hung out with him in his office. I really need to go to Mass there.

I look for a familiar face so I talk with George, the guy who has a stall over at Soulard Market. George handles the carry out orders for lunch. I have actually met Slay a few times before. He told me once he liked my style when I went to go vote a few years ago over at Saint Joan of Arc when he was out electioneering. I didn't think the Boss would have time to talk to a young punk like me, and I knew George so I figured he knew what Slay's favorite drink was.

George smiles and looks at me and says "Adaik."

"What is that?"

He describes the liquor. A potent white liquor that clouds up on ice. It is made in Lebanon.

George shouts out to Francis from across the room, "Hay Francis!! Francis!!"

Francis is talking to some important looking suits. George has no problem interupting the conversation.

"Do we have any Adaik in the bar? These young men want to know about the Adaik."

Francis comes on over. He is a large older man, yet not tall, who clearly commands the presence and is the boss in the room. There is no doubt. He is wearing a tailored suit and chomping on an unlit cigar. He is the man with the answers.

"Eh?"

He looks us up and down. He pauses. I am nervous.

Tim says "So it is like Uzo?"

He looks him in the eye and says "Its bettah than Uzo!"

He invites us to go back to his office. He has a great swagger about him. He is quite sure of his step. I have seen him try to wrestle my friend Byron in the hallway once. Something else.

Slay introduces us to his secretary and then heaps compliments on her. She rolls her eyes and smiles. We go into his office and I have my hat in my hand. I look around at pictures of dignitaries and priests. He goes into his file cabinet and pulls out a bottle of Arak. It is spelled very differently than it had been pronounced.

"We call it Adaik. That is how we pronounce it."

I ask him a few questions and tell him what I am doing. I told him he would have a bottle of the Arak waiting for him at the bar the next time he would come in. He smiled.

We now have two bottles of the booze on reserve at the Royale waiting to be ordered. Hopefully he may come in. Until then, all the junior lawyers, cops and hustlers will congregate at my joint. I hope to cross the generational lines soon.

9 Comments:

Blogger ZombieKiller said...

UZO!!!!

Eek...

Uzo is the reason why anytime someone says "Here, try this." I reply, "Eh...I think I'll just have a scotch."

9:53 AM  
Anonymous Spinster said...

Sounds like scotch would be a nice chaser for that stuff. ZombieKiller and I will be in soon to give it a shot. eek - no pun intended.

10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's actually not bad. and it is better than uzo.

11:40 AM  
Blogger Burt Bollinger said...

I've actually sipped on some of this...and it was...um, rather harsh. I think it turned white when it hit the ice.

great post tho ;)

1:07 PM  
Blogger Burt Bollinger said...

DRINKING ARAK - A GOURMET RITUAL IN THE MIDDLE EAST
by Habeeb Salloum

Called by the Arabs of the Middle East, ‘the milk of lions’, arak, also known as arack and arraki, is the national alcoholic drink of Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. It is given this nick-name because of its highly potent and lethal character. An aniseed-flavoured colourless spirit which turns to a milky-white liquid after water and/or ice are added, it is much sought after in the Middle Eastern lands by those who indulge in intoxicating drinks. Usually drank before it matures, it is a fiery rough liquor made for tough palates.
Never drank by itself, arak is always served with mezza (titbits of food) which could include up to a hundred dishes. A dinner invitation to friends and colleagues who savour alcoholic drinks always begins with this gourmet ritual. After a few ounces of arak and the consuming of a large amount of mezza, the guests are usually sated. When the main course of the meal is served, the food is hardly touched. Sipping on arak while consuming titbits of appetizers is always thought of as the highlight of the meal.
Various forms of arak, which in Arabic means both sweat and juice, are popular in all the countries edging the Mediterranean and parts of the Far East. In the greater Syria area, it is distilled from fermented grape juice or, at times, sugar and is considered by the inhabitants to be greatly superior to similar hard liquors in other countries. The same spirit in the
Balkans and Turkey, called raki - another form of the word arak - is made from a variety of products like grain, molasses, plums and potatoes. Other similar drinks are the arak of Iraq - made from fermented date juice, the zibib of Egypt - a peasant made drink and Greek ouzo - the most popular aperitif in that country. Further west, along the northern shores of the
Mediterranean, the Italian anesone, French pastis and Spanish ojén, served as aperitifs or refreshers, are all sweeter versions of arak. Also, in the Far East, a comparable liquor known as arrack, distilled from palm sap or rice, is very popular.
It is believed that the arak is among the first of these liquors - apparently developed by the Christian and Jewish minorities in the Middle East. The art of distillation was initially discovered in the early Middle Ages by the 10th century Arab alchemist, Albukassem. However, the Arabs did not use his invention to produce alcoholic spirits since in Islam, liquor is forbidden. Hence, his discovery was employed to distil perfume from flowers and to produce kohl - a women's eye cosmetic where a black powder is liquified, then converted to vapour and allowed to re-solidify.
The Arabs carried the art of distilling kohl to Spain from where it spread to the remainder of Europe. In these Christian lands, it took on a much different use - the production of liquor. With the utilization of this method of producing hard spirits, the Arabic name al-kohl, which became alcohol, was adopted due to the similar method the Arabs used in manufacturing this cosmetic. The words in English relating to the art of distillation, besides alcohol, like alchemy, alchemist, and alembic attest to the Arab origin of producing the many intoxicants found in western lands.
Arak, in the past, was generally of local or village manufacture, but in the last few decades it is increasingly being produced in large manufacturing plants. The modern hard drinks of the West have not overwhelmed this ancient peasant refreshment. It is still the preferred liquor of those who enjoy alcoholic drinks in the Middle East.
One has only to sit in the restaurants and night spots of Jordan, Lebanon and Syria which serve alcoholic drinks to appreciate the people's attachment to this product of the grape. On every table, a bottle of arak surrounded by endless plates of mezza, much like Spanish tapas, is the focal point of the party. Middle Easterners believe that it is very important to snack while sipping their drinks. They would never dream of drinking their arak without nibbling on an endless array of foods. Many believe that eating cuts down the lethal effect of the `lion's milk' - to its fans, the epitome of drinks. There is a saying among the Arab Christians that `anyone who drinks arak becomes its advocate'.

2:07 PM  
Blogger Nuance said...

Are you carrying any uzo? Enough with the Lebanese -- show some love to the Greeks!

12:01 PM  
Blogger Brian Checco said...

I can't qualify if it's better than Ouzo, but I'm excited as hell to try it. I work at a junk removal place in DC, and we cleared out an office that had Syrian and other Middle-Eastern professionals living and working there, transcribing documents from Arabic to English (and vice-versa), and I came across a bottle of the Arak Razzouk that the girl there warned me was "harsher than Everclear." Always one to push the boundaries, naturally I had to keep the bottle (which is 100 proof, by the way)... I wrapped it in a commandeered-prayer mat, and it is now happily sitting on my desk, daring me to drink it. And you know what? Tonight, I most certainly will. Watch www.briancheccovoices.blogspot.com for the news and booze reviews. Cheers, and Keskun.

12:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

everyone from the middle east / greece thinks their country's arak/raki/ouzo is better than the other version. i am turkish, i've had ouzo and liked it somewhat. yet i still prefer turkish versions (try: 'yesil efe', made with fresh grapes in limited numbers every year, goes down really smooth). but i have heard some great things about lebanese arak from some turkish friends. i am going to try the 'arak razouk' tonight and see for myself.

3:41 PM  
Anonymous jojo said...

Pour water into it first, and add ice last. If you pour it directly on ice, it makes a film form on the surface, and that is not desirable.

6:41 PM  

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