Apples are fall's fruit to most. But there's another forgotten fruit that's in season -- one that is, in my opinion, a better flavor to infuse into cocktails: the pomegranate.
This seedy little wonder is tangier than an apple, sweeter than a cranberry — basically, the perfect taste for richer, darker autumnal drinks. Pomegranates are also associated with ancient Middle Eastern cultures, which use the harvest in a variety of salads, sauces, oils, and drinks. Lebanese Taverna in Harbor East pays homage to the fruit and their own heritage with the Beirut, a potent cocktail of traditional arak.
Arak, a blend of distilled golden grapes and aniseed, is the national drink of Lebanon. It has a licorice taste reminiscent of Greek Ouzo, with a hint of peppermint. The liquor turns white when water and ice are added, hence the nickname "the milk of lions."
Sound pretty fierce? Yes, but it's an accurate representation of the Beirut. Bartender Ali Ahmed describes the cocktail as "a simple combination of two intense ingredients. It's a fantastic way to get that taste of tradition in a flavorful, fruity drink."
The Beirut is an equal balance of arak and pomegranate juice, sweetened with house-made simple syrup. While Lebanese Taverna does offer a basic arak service, similar to wine tasting, Ahmed suggests starting with an infused cocktail. There are other arak-inspired cocktails but this is the easiest way to introduce your palate to the powerful anise spirit.
Cold and tart, with a warm, savory finish, the Beirut is a unique way to usher in this chilly season.
How to Make the Beirut
2 parts fresh pomegranate juice
1 part Arak (such as Ghantous)
1/2 part simple syrup
1/2 part club soda
Mix arak, syrup and soda; pour into a cocktail glass, add pomegranate juice.
Where to Get the Beirut
719 S. President St., Harbor East
$9Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun