You may think you’ve stumbled upon the Fountain of Youth. Well in many ways, you have. Indonesian palm wine, or tuak, flows freely from local palms. Here’s how it happens!
Palm wine is gathered from a variety of palms across Asia, Africa, and South America. Here, we’ll discuss tuak, an Indonesian version popular in rural Bali. Traditionally, tuak is served at ceremonies or celebrations. Locals sit, cross-legged on the floor, and a glass is passed among stories and song.
So, where does this magic nectar come from!?
The process starts with palm tapping. Harvesters choose a tree and remove one of its flowering fronds (i.e. inflorescence). Beneath the frond, a bucket is hung to catch the dripping sap. It’s then covered to deter bees and ants (though some slip through, and will be drained out later – YUM).
Within half a day, it’s time for collection! The bucket’s contents are transferred to a container (commonly, an empty fuel can). And before leaving, the frond is cut back to reveal a fresh surface – similar to how we’ll cut vased flowers. The process is repeated for ~3 months at roughly 4-5L of sap per day.
Finally, you’re left with a soft, milky substance 3-4% alcohol that tastes strongly of sweet yeast. You can purchase 10L for about 40,000 IDR (or $3 USD).
We walked through forests of thorns to get to the palm. Nestled in the spiky branches, we found salak (i.e. snake fruit), which has a sour flavor and apple-like texture. It’s real, Indiana Jones sh*t!
Wine to Moonshine
The final, and optional, stage is arak – a distilled version similar to moonshine with 20-50% alcohol. It’s incredibly refreshing, actually, served as a cold cocktail with soda or fruit juice. Personally, I prefer it mixed with honey and a bit of lime (i.e. arak attack).
But a word of caution: There are reports of blindness and death from arak in Bali. This is due to naturally occurring methanol during distillation that hasn’t been properly removed. Trust the person responsible for your batch, and ensure they know what they’re doing.
Based on careful analysis, I can confirm that tuak can be used as a substitute in beer pong.