Sambuca 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, Illicium verum, which give the liquor a strong anise flavor. The oils are added to pure alcohol, a concentrated solution of sugar, and other flavouring. It is commonly bottled at 38% alcohol by volume
The etymology is disputed: the Molinari company states that the name Sambuca comes from an Arabic word: Zammut. This was the name of an anise-flavored drink that arrived to the port of Civitavecchia by ships coming from the East. The Oxford English Dictionary states, however, that the term comes from the Latin word sambucus, meaning "elderberry".
Other proposals are that it could have come from the Indian name for fennel, sounf or soambu, where it is a regular ingredient in cooking, or that it comes from "sambuq", a type of Arabic ship which may originally have been used to import the drink and may hence have given it its name.
The Greek 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. It is speculated that it was inspired by the success Greek ouzo had in Italy and France in the 19th century.
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