sunny arrack

a tale of two arrack cocktails

Arrack is one of those drinks I was warned about while growing up, the way you’re warned about a river with a strong undercurrent. It may look like all the others but if you saw people go under, you’d stay away. To put it bluntly, my mom saw a lot of people get crazy drunk off arrack in her day and regaled the tales to instill her fear of it in me at every opportunity she had. It’s boozy, but no more than many spirits. Made from unopened coconut tree flowers, it’s compared to whiskey or rum or something in between. When I brought my first bottle home from Sri Lanka, where it’s made, I used it in place of both to try it out and you should try to do the same if you can get your hands on some. At this very moment, you may have trouble finding Arrack depending on what part of the world you live in. But I’ve read that it’s going to be exported to America and other points west imminently. Get your hands on a bottle soonest and put these two recipes to the test.First, something I call the 501. Convention has it that “it’s 5:00 somewhere” at which point it’s acceptable to pour a drink. It’s an excuse to drink early, the way you might want after a particularly bad day. This is a drink I could make as soon as I walk in the door because I always have Lillet Blanc in the fridge and lately Aperol too. It takes a minute to make so feel free to start as soon as your 5:00 rolls around.

sunny arrack

The 501.

1.5 oz Sri Lankan (coconut) arrack
1 oz Lillet Blanc
1 oz Aperol

Combine all in an ice-filled shaker, shake well and strain over large ice cubes into a glass and serve.

Makes 1 drink.


This second drink is cheery and laid back and it’s a tribute to the most relaxing part of a recent visit to Sri Lanka. We stayed at an intimate but completely luxurious villa on the southern tip of the island and had the place almost to ourselves. There was a long and wide pool that reflected the deep green of the palm trees surrounding it. You could swim laps under the sun or calmly float on your back and listen to the water-muffled sound of monkeys very, very close by.

The Backfloat

2 oz Sri Lankan (coconut) arrack
2 oz ginger beer
1 oz lime juice
Lime slice for garnish

Add arrack, ginger beer and lime juice to an ice filled cocktail shaker. Stir for 20 seconds and strain into an old-fashioned glass. Float a slice of lime on top and serve.

Makes 1 drink.