HOW to Drink SAMBUCA
Technically speaking, there is no right or wrong way to drink sambuca. Although there are a number of Italian customs that can be observed when drinking sambuca, you can discover your own way to enjoy it.
Typically, sambuca is rarely enjoyed neat and it will be accompanied by a coffee bean at the very least as we will describe below. Occasionally, it can be enjoyed on the rocks with ice.
Alternatively, sambuca may be slightly diluted with ice water in a similar way to absinthe or pastis. On some occasions, you may observe a louche or “ouzo effect” where the drink becomes cloudy. Interestingly, this cloudiness is an indicator of the sambuca’s anise content.
Finally, sambuca is emerging as an excellent cocktail ingredient to produce some original and exciting flavours. Check out our guide to the best sambuca cocktails to learn more.
Typically, sambuca’s ingredients consist of the alcohol, star anise, and sugar. Occasionally, green anise is used instead. Additionally, sambuca may also include other botanicals including elderflower, fennel, and liquorice.
Overall, the process is not dissimilar to producing akvavit in that the ingredients are simply added to the alcohol to create its unique flavour. However, akvavit steeps the botanicals while sambuca introduces the ingredients as essFinally, the ingredients are combined and left to rest for just under a week in large steel tanks. Once the mixture has settled, it is always filtered at room temperature as chill-filtering would cause a louche effect and remove the essential oils.
Sambuca Alcohol Volume Percentage
Sambuca has a legal minimum ABV of 38%. While on some occasions, brands will abide by this to the letter, the majority of producers will retail sambuca of at least 40% and sometimes slightly more at around 42% ABV.
What Is Black Sambuca?
Black sambuca or dark sambuca is the most common alternative sambuca flavour. Indeed, some brands may produce a variety of flavours including apple, raspberry, banana, or even coffee.
While a typical clear or white sambuca is flavoured with anise, elderberries, and sugar, black sambuca consists of witch elder bush and liquorice. Usually, it will also contain anise too. However, its presence is far less prolific in black sambuca.
Unlike white sambuca, black sambuca is also served neat and often in a snifter glass rather than a shot glass. Additionally, black sambuca is rarely totally black. In fact, it tends to have hues of dark blue or violet, which resembles ink.
Occasionally, people may refer to red sambuca too, which tends to consist of some of the alternative flavourings listed above.
Firstly, demineralised water is heated to around 70°C (150°F) and is combined with the sugar to produce a syrup. Sambuca contains a significant amount of sugar, which equates to an average of 350 grams per litre or 47 ounces per US gallon.
Afterwards, the star anise is blanched and then crushed before its essential oils are extracted through steam distillation. However, most sambuca producers will often import the star anise from China as an essential and will rarely undertake the process themselves.
DRINKING SAMBUCA with ESPRESSO
It Italy, sambuca is most commonly enjoyed with coffee. In most cases, it will be served as what is called an ammazzacaffè.
An Italian take on the formal dinner practice of passing through to a different room to smoke and drink cognac, an ammazzacaffè is traditionally practised with grappa. However, sambuca is also sometimes used. Its objective is to dull the coffee’s taste as well as the caffeine’s effect.
Alternatively, the sambuca can be added directly to the coffee in place of sugar, which is referred to as a caffè corretto.
In some cases, a few drops are added by a waiter before the coffee is taken to the customer. Otherwise, the sambuca may be presented in an accompanying shot glass so that the drinker can add their desired portion.
Finally, a dash of sambuca may sometimes be added to a finished espresso cup to “clean” it, which is then knocked back as a shot.
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