It’s not every day that an Indonesian government official recommends that we drink alcohol.
In a bid to promote arak, Bali Governor Wayan Koster has recommended the island’s residents drink two seloki (shots) of the Balinese traditional liquor every day – one in the morning and one in the evening.
Koster said that drinking one shot of arak in the morning is especially good for one’s health and can boost their spirit at work.
“So drink arak for health and not to get drunk,” he said yesterday during an official visit to Karangasem.
Having issued a gubernatorial regulation to push for the production and marketing of arak three years ago (followed by a presidential regulation issued by President Joko Widodo in 2021), Koster said last year that he wishes to see arak products make up at least 50 percent of hotels and restaurants’ alcoholic beverage offerings.
This Sunday, Jan. 29, marks Bali’s first official Arak Day. Koster expressed his optimism that drinking the liquor in moderation daily will help preserve arak as part of the island’s cultural inheritance.
The governor said that people who consider Arak Day as an occasion to get drunk are misguided, adding that the fault is not on the liquor but on excessive drinking habits.
“One gallon of water if drunk alone in a short amount of time will surely get you drunk, so don’t blame arak but our behavior must be correct in utilizing arak,” Koster said.
Balinese arak is a liquor made from coconut flower extract. Under a 2020 regional regulation, arak, along with tuak (another traditional drink made from coconut flower extracts but distinct from arak in fermentation method), and brem (traditional rice wine), were legalized, preserved as cultural heritages, and marked for further commercial development in Bali.
Koster’s backing of the commercialization of traditional Balinese liquors includes calling upon producers to include traditional scripture on their packaging. The governor has also ordered crackdowns on cane sugar-based arak, such as those produced in Karangasem.
Concerns have long been raised about cane-sugar arak containing harmful chemical additives. There were also fears that the product would threaten traditional coconut-based arak artisans, as well as ruin Bali’s reputation as the only source of genuine arak.
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