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Sambuca (Italian pronunciation: [samˈbuka]) is an Italian anise-flavoured, usually colourless, liqueur. Its most common variety is often referred to as white sambuca to differentiate it from other varieties that are deep blue in colour (black sambuca) or bright red (red sambuca). Sambuca contains essential oils obtained from star anise and elder flowers, Sambucus nigra. The oils are added to pure alcohol, a concentrated solution of sugar, and other flavouring. It is commonly bottled at 42% alcohol by volume.

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. It is speculated that it was inspired by the success Greek ouzo had in Italy and France in the 19th century.



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

Ammazzacaffè (Italian for coffee killer) is a small glass of liqueur usually consumed after coffee to dull its taste. It is a common Italian custom, especially after a generous tasty festive meal.

On the rocks

Sambuca can be served with ice, optionally adding some coffee beans as ornament. The ice enhances the flavors and changes the color 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 la mosca (literally, "Sambuca with fly"). The beans are there as an ornament, but they can be chewed to increase the taste of anise. It is usually served in restaurants with 3 coffee beans and is said that the beans represent health, happiness, and prosperity, or to signify the husband, wife, and mistress, or to signify the Christian Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost).

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 by adding fresh water, becoming a refreshing drink with less alcoholic bite.

Flaming Sambuca

Sambuca may be served in a shot glass and then set on fire for a second or two, in order to increase its flavour.

Another alternative is to catch the fumes in a snifter, and then snort the heated shot, after which the fumes are sucked up from the snifter through a straw, this method is similar to the controversially named Sambuca Gas Chamber, where a measure of Sambuca is poured into a low but wide glass, it is then set on fire using a long match, then it is left to burn for no more than 3 seconds before it is extinguished, the Sambuca is snorted, the glass is turned upside down and tilted upwards so the fumes can be enjoyed through a straw.

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