Batavia arrack, a funky, molasses- and rice-based spirit that originated on the island of Java. Named after Java’s 17th-century, Dutch-colonized capital, Batavia arrack is among the oldest known distilled spirits, and one that pre-dates even rum (which would later supersede its predecessor in popularity and play a part in pushing Batavia to the back shelf).
“Batavia arrack is similar to a vanilla bean or a chunk of fresh horseradish. By themselves, their existence seems erroneous. How could something that tastes like that be useful in any way?” says Guillermo Bravo of New York’s The NoMad Bar. After a few failed encounters with the spirit, Bravo was lured into taking shots of the stuff at a Tiki Tuesday event at Featherweight in Brooklyn, where, whether from maturity or simply the charm of time and place, he finally got it. “It was like understanding that obscure band your too-cool friends are obsessed with. Something in my palate and brain just clicked,” he says, “and I appreciated the onslaught of vegetal leather, fermented apricot and that fuel-soaked clove taste.”