The resulting drink, clear in its pure form but milky when mixed with water, has the smooth, refreshing taste of licorice and perhaps peppermint. It is the favorite drink of Sunday brunchers, who drink arak in accompaniment of a three or four-hour meal, the meze, itself an battalion of small dishes that compete for the palate's attention.
It's traditional for eastern Mediterranean societies, including those in Jordan, Syria, Israel, Palestine and even cheaters as far east of the Mediterranean as Iraq, to claim to be either the originators of arak or its best producers. Good arak, however, is synonymous with Lebanese arak.
The drink's various derivatives include raki in Turkey, ouzo in Greece, pastis in France, and sambuca in Italy.