AMED, Indonesia — Ignoring admonitions to keep away from the local hooch, my last night in Indonesia seemed as good a time as any to attempt it.
Billed as a palm wine, arak is actually Bali moonshine. I’d heard there was plenty of homegrown going around, some of it even potent enough to cause blindness if you drank from a bad batch. After imbibing my fill of Indonesia’s enjoyable Bali Hai, Bintang and Storm beers, I was ready for something stronger.
A lively crowd of locals and Westerners at Wawa Wewe — an open-air a nightclub-restaurant I spotted in Lipah, a few kilometers south of Amed, while motorbiking away the morning before a local cockfight — felt reassuring. (“Wawa Wewe,” the menu informed us, was a local phrase meaning, “No problem,” or as I like to say, “No pasa nada.”) Looking around, I saw neither shades being worn at night nor anyone stumbling into other diners. This, I figured, made it as good as any a place to imbibe adventurously.
Its most popular cocktail, the arak attack, is made from arak, honey, lemon and ice — a perfect complement to a warm Bali day — so I ordered one.
One drink later, I felt a bit like I’d done a shot of absinthe. Except with an aftertaste resembling fragrant aloe vera.
As a result, I suspect, the local cover band, performing rusty, phonetic versions of “Careless Whisper” and “Hey Jude” started to sound good enough for a singalong.
I declined a second round.