Sambuca is a colourless liqueur obtained by steam distillation of the seeds of star anise and fennel. Originally the recipe included also the distillation of elderflowers, hence the name, but today only pure alcohol, water, sugar, anise and fennel are used.
Sambuca has a thick and velvety consistency, it is sweet and oily, and it has an alcohol content ranging from 38% to 42%.

Sambuca is consumed usually as “ammazzacaffè” at the end of a dinner or a heavy meal: it can be drunk either smooth, either with ice, or “con la mosca” (“with the fly”), with one or two coffee beans that must be chewed while drinking to enhance the taste of the liqueur. Sambuca can be poured in coffee, or diluted with water to create the “ghost” effect: the reaction between water and sambuca gives rise, in fact, to an opaque and evenescent liquid that looks like smoke.

From Eastern countries a very scenic variant is created: the sambuca flambé, which has to be burned, poured from a glass to another and drunk in one gulp. Only after, the steam can be aspired with a straw.
Another type of sambuca, which is typical of clubs and nightlife, is sambuca bum bum: served in a shot glass, it is burn and then covered with hands until the glass remains attached to the palm, then slammed and drunk all at once. Finally, the sambuca is also used in some cocktails such as Sambuca Fizz or Sambuca Tonic, respectively with soda or tonic water.

Sambuca was born in Civitavecchia and its creator was Luigi Manzi, who developed the recipe in 1851 and called this anise liqueur “sambuca” in honor of “sambuchelli”, which were the young kids who used to go into the fields to quench the peasants’ thirtst with jugs of water and anise.