Add a Little Funk to Your Cocktails – By the Dutch Batava Arrack


Here is something of interest….it was quite a while ago since I wrote about arrack spirits. I have always liked it as a cocktail ingredient since it adds a certain funk adding a specific edge to the drinks…and needless to say it suits tiki drinks very well.


The original word “araq” is Arabian and was associated with the distillation process when the knowledge of how to distill spirits spread in the Middle East and Asia during the 14th century and the term arrack was used for distilled spirits in general but “Batavia Arrack” is a term specifically for molasses based arrack distillate.

There are three completely different categories of Arrak:

Arak – from the Middle East, distilled from fermented grapes, licorice-flavored with anise seed.

Batavia Arrak – from Indonesia, distilled from fermented sugar cane and rice.

Coconut Arrak – from Sri Lanka, distilled from naturally fermented nectar of coconut flowers.

During the 18th century Arrak was used as a substitute for rum ratios for sailers in South East Asia by the British Royal Navy and Marco Polo mentioned Arrak in his 13th century diary Il Milione. Also Arrak was an ingredient in several recipes in Jerry Thomas original 1882 book The Bartender´s Guide. So it´s a very old spirit…

“By the Dutch” Batavia Arrack is a 48% abv distillate based on sugar-cane molasses produced on the island of Java, Indonesia with methods dating back to the 17th century. It’s comprised of a specific range of pot still distillates originating from the East Indies.

Local red rice is used in the fermentation process being added and mixed to the yeast before adding to the water and molasses and it`s this, which sets it apart from rum, although the base material is still molasses from sugar-cane. Distillation of Batavia Arrack is done with traditional old Chinese ancient copper pot stills and ageing is done in oak barrels up to 8 years and the result is rich and deep. The ageing and blending takes place in the Netherlands.

Some call it “Indonesian rum” due to the very similar process in the making and inclusion of molasses but personally i`d rather classify it as simply “Batavia Arrack” since the red rice is not part of rum making plus it adds a distinctive flavor to the product which also sets it apart.

As somebody living in Sweden I learnt early what Batavia Arrack was since it´s part of the Swedish Punsch which I use very occasionally as a cocktail ingredient. It`s also part of a type of punch-rolls and other chocolate candies that are very tasty. And also and this is very interesting, it´s also a part of the ingredients in the GunRoom Navy Rum made by Renbjer & Magnusson which I have reviewed earlier.

Some technical aspects:

Distilling process: 1. Fermentation of the wash from molasses (sugarcane by-product), water and added local red rice, in wooden vats up to ± 8% abv. 2. The ready wash is distilled in vintage Pot-stills up to ± 30% abv. 3. Second distillation in other pot-stills up to 60-65% abv. 4. Batavia Arrack has been stored and shipped to Amsterdam. 5. Batavia Arrack is matured in large oak casks in Amsterdam. 6. Batavia Arrack is blended according to an unique and secret recipe by the master blender and brought back to 48% abv.

Batavia was the name of the capital city of the Dutch East Indies, and corresponds to the present day city of Jakarta. The establishment of Batavia (Java Island) at the site of the razed city of Jayakarta by the Dutch in 1619 led to the Dutch colony that became modern Indonesia following World War II. Batavia became the center of the Dutch East India Company’s trading network in Asia.

Virtually all arrack exported to Europe arrived in Amsterdam or Rotterdam in wooden barrels or buts (563 liters). This would than be matured and blended to create an end product of consistent quality and flavor.

I find the taste of this Batavia Arrack to be very much like a shortly aged rum and it´s not harsh at all even though it got some fire and it also got quite a bit of “herbal” funk a la Smith & Cross style actually but it´s still has it´s own distinctive taste. It´s an interesting flavor that can be had on the rocks or in mixed drinks.

So with that it´s time to drink!

Witch Doctor (recipe by Geoffrey Wilson)

1 oz By the Dutch Batavia Arrak
1 oz Smith & Cross Jamaican rum
0.5 oz basil syrup
0.5 oz fresh lime juice
Top with soda
Basil for garnish cut in stripes (chiffonade)

Shake the ingredients together except the soda. Pour into a tall glass and top with soda, then add chiffonade basil for garnish and if you wish, a tropical orchid.

One thing this drink has is pronounced  arrack and rum flavors and at the same time it´s refreshing due to the fresh lime, basil and soda. The drink is slightly earthy and herbal and it´s delicious.

And here´s a take on the Painkiller:

Batavia Pain Killer

4 oz fresh pineapple juice
1 oz orange juice
1 oz Coco Real or Lopez cream of coconut
1 oz By the Dutch Batavia Arrak
1 oz Pusser`s Rum

Shake with plenty of crushed ice and pour unstrained into a tall glass or tiki mug. Dust with nutmeg and garnish with pineapple leaves. And a  float of Cruzan Blackstrap can only do good…..

Since there´s quite a bit of juice in this the arrack flavor is less pronounced but it´s there, mingling in the middle and the drink is quietly doing it`s job!

Final thoughts – I find this product to be as nice as I thought it would be, I love the funkiness it adds to cocktails and even though I haven`t made it on the rocks here i`m sure that tastes good too. I can recommend trying this out!

Swizzling with Arrack and Chartreuse

I was browsing around to find some drink inspiration and stumbled upon one of  Cocktailvirgin´s posts – the St Bruno Swizzle. What got me at first was the picture, it looked so tasty and reading the recipe finding out the drink contained green chartreuse and Batavia arrack i couldn`t wait to try it out.

And it didn`t hurt that there was a link to another interesting drink also with Chartreuse and Batavia arrack – the “Swamp Water Fix” – and that one i decided to turn into a swizzle and add some aged rum as well.

The Swamp Water Fix originates from a drink called Swamp Water containing green Chartreuse, pineapple juice and lime. That drink is from the 70s and the recipe can be found in Stan Jones’ Complete Barguide.

Both the Swamp Water drinks and the St Bruno Swizzle reminds me about the famous Chartreuse Swizzle which we the CSOWG gang (Cocktails and Spirits Online Writers Group) so happily imbibed from flower vases as drink vessels in the Mixohouse during the “good old days” in New Orleans.

I wrote a post or two about the Chartreuse Swizzle and really, there is something purely magic about the combination of green chartreuse, lime, falernum and pineapple and as we had it – JWray overproof Jamaican rum. (Can be made with other rums too with stunning results)

The garnish for the Swamp Water Fix is a wide strip of lime peel that should resemble a serpent in the swamp water.

But back to the first drink, the St Bruno Swizzle – it was created by bartender/Scott Marshall and the drink name refers to the founder of the Carthusian Order who established the enclosed monastic society in 1084.

It was the Carthusian monks who in the 1740s produced the Chartreuse liqueurs.

Reading Fred´s flavor description got me both thirsty and curious if i would find it as tasty as he did:

The St. Bruno Swizzle offered up a chocolate aroma that was paired with caramel notes from the aged rum. The citrusy sip preceded the funky Batavia Arrack flavors, the Green Chartreuse herbal notes, and the Yellow Chartreuse savory ones. At the end, instead of the drink drying out from the floated bitters, it got pleasantly chocolaty.

There was only one way to find out of course and luckily i had all the ingredients on hand. So here are the drinks:

St Bruno Swizzle

1 oz Batavia Arrack
1/2 oz Green Chartreuse
1/2 oz Yellow Chartreuse
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Lime Juice

Add the ingredients in a tall glass half filled with crushed ice and use a swizzle stick to swizzle up and down to chill until frost forms on the outside of the glass. Top of with more crushed ice and float 1/2 oz Plantation Barbados 5 Year Rum and 2 dash Bittermen`s Mole Bitters, and add a straw.

I also added a piece of lemon peel and a cherry for garnish.

I didn´t have Plantation Barbados 5 Year Rum but i have Plantation Original Dark Overproof Rum….much better to float with i think…

The flavor of the drink is what i would call aromatic…I love the funky notes from the Batavia arrack and the green chartreuse is very herbal – while the yellow chartreuse is herbal too i find it more tropical in flavor and paired with some fresh lime…it´s mouth watering and yummy.

There´s a hint of sexy chocolate in the mix…from the mole bitters. Then the float of overproof dark rum on top is like the icing on the cake or the cream on the coffee…

I liked this cocktail but one cocktail is never enough…

Swamp Water swizzle

1 1/2 oz Green Chartreuse
1 oz Batavia Arrack
1/2 oz Pineapple Syrup
1/2 oz Pineapple Juice
3/4 oz Lime Juice
2 drop Bitter Truth Celery Bitters

Add ingredients to a tall glass and fill with crushed ice and swizzle to mix. Insert a wide lime twist in the glass, top with more ice, dust some cinnamon on top and add a straw.

This drink was rounder in flavor, probably because of the pineapple juice and the celery bitters. It had a similar flavor though since both drinks contains Batavia arrack and Chartreuse but definitely more “round” and “full” and if i was to choose one of them i`d take this one.

Such aromatic drinks…i hope yall will and can try them out sometimes. I call the green Chartruse the “green magic potion”…


Sugarcane bar