Sambuca is an Italian aniseed-flavored, usually colorless liqueur. Its most common variety is often referred to as "white Sambuca" in order to differentiate it from derivative spirits that are deep blue in colour (known as "black Sambuca") or bright red ("red Sambuca"). [ Traditional guide to Sambuca] ]


The main ingredients of Sambuca are the essential oils obtained by distilling vapours of the seeds of a kind of aniseed called "Illicium verum" (Star Anise), thus giving the liquor a strong smell of anise. Those are added to pure alcohol, a concentrated solution of sugar and other natural flavours. Sambuca is commonly brewed to 84 proof, and is easily set alight.


The Molinari company states that the name "Sambuca" comes from an Arabic word: "Zammut". This was the name of an anise-flavoured drink that arrived to the port of Civitavecchia by ships coming from the East. [ The origins of Sambuca Molinari] ] The Oxford English Dictionary states, however, that the term comes from the Latin word "sambūc-us", meaning "elderberry".OED|Sambuca]

A "Sambuq" is a type of Arabic ship which may originally have been used to import the drink and may have given it its name.

The Italian word "Sambuca" was first used as the name of another anise-based liquor that was created in Civitavecchia about 130 years ago.

The first commercial version of such a drink started at the end of 1800 in Civitavecchia thanks to Luigi Manzi that started selling "Sambuca Manzi", that is still produced today. In 1945, soon after the end of Second World War, commendatore Angelo Molinari started producing "Sambuca Extra Molinari", that helped the diffusion of Sambuca all over Italy.



Sambuca can be served Neat, as Ammazzacaffè or just as refreshment.

On the rocks

Sambuca can be served with ice, optionally adding some coffee beans as ornament. The ice exalts the flavours and changes the colour of the drink from transparent to dense white.

With toasted coffee beans

In Italy it is common to serve neat Sambuca with some floating coffee beans dropped on it: it is called "Sambuca con mosca" (literally, "Sambuca with flies"). The beans are there as an ornament, but they can be chewed to exalt the taste of anise.

In coffee

Sambuca can be added to coffee as a sweetener instead of sugar. The mixed drink in Italian is called "Caffè corretto" (literally, "corrected coffee"), though more commonly caffè corretto refers to grappa and coffee.

With water

Sambuca can be served adding fresh water, becoming a refreshing less alcoholic drink.

On Fire

Sambuca can be served in a shot glass and then set on fire for a second or two, in order to increase flavour.Another alternative is known as "Gas Chambers" which is the same as on fire but the fumes are caught in a glass and after the shot is taken the fumes are sucked up through a straw. [ Flaming Sambuca] ]


ee also

*List of anise-flavored liqueurs
*List of cocktails

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