Bali’s new zero waste arak bar
On some days during the pandemic, Bali’s Four Seasons Resort at Jimbaran Bay had no guests and no revenue. It came as a shock to this all-villa luxury resort, which has averaged around 60% room occupancy (the industry gold standard) since it opened in 1993.
Then a bartender approached general manager Uday Rao with the idea of turning an unused villa into a cocktail school and bar dedicated to arak, Bali’s traditional palm sap spirit.
“I told him ‘you know we don’t have money for that’,” Rao recalled. “But he said he wouldn’t need a lot of money because it would be a zero waste concept. The layout will be made entirely from recycled materials. I couldn’t say no.
Often made in backyard distilleries, arak, like any “moonlight” spirit, can certainly be harmful. In 2013, Perth teenager Liam Davies died on Gili Trawangan, a small satellite island near Bali, after drinking what he believed to be imported vodka and lime mixers at a cheap bar that had replaced vodka by moonlight. But not all araks are the same. Reinvented in the image of small-batch Scotch whisky, premium arak is smooth as silk and can cost upwards of $100 a bottle. “When the local food movement reached Indonesia a few years ago and bartenders started working with local arrack, it encouraged producers to be more creative and distill it much better,” says Mahmoud. “That’s how I came up with the idea for a sustainable cocktail workshop focusing on the history and creativity of the Balinese.” The zero waste concept also applies to beverages. Take “Made’s Margarita”, a sustainable version of a classic margarita that uses every part of local oranges from the Kintamani highlands in east Bali, including the pulp and rind, to make toppings and condiments like orange oil mist – an ingredient for another arak-based cocktail, the Sundara Spritz. The Tebu Mule, a variant of the Moscow Mule, gets its flavor from a cane stick instead of processed stuff. Salt, pepper, honey and other ingredients are also sourced locally to reduce the number of miles the ingredients travel before being consumed.
“For many years I have visited vineyards in places like Napa and Bordeaux and it has inspired me to create our own very special spirit,” says Talasi founder Alisjahbana Haliman. “That’s how the idea of Karusotju was born.”