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Sambuca Inferno Ice, Sambuca Gold,
Sambuca Black.

Sambuca is an Italian anise-flavoured, usually colorless liqueur. Its most common variety is often referred to as white sambuca to differentiate it from other varieties that are deep blue in color (black sambuca) or bright red (red sambuca).[1]



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 flavoring. It is commonly bottled at 42% alcohol by volume (84 proof).


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. [2] The Oxford English Dictionary states, however, that the term comes from the Latin word sambūc-um, meaning "elderberry".[3]

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 Italian word Sambuca was first used as the name of another anise-based liquor that was created in Civitavecchia about 130 years ago.[2]

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, served on the rocks as an ammazzacaffè


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 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 flies")[4][5]. 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.

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.

With cola

Although uncommon, Sambuca can be served with cola to make a refreshing long drink. Much like with Ouzo, mixing Sambuca with cola creates a cloudy brown drink due to the Ouzo effect.

Flaming Sambuca

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.

Flaming Sambuca in a sniffer.

Another alternative is to catch the fumes in a snifter, and then drink 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 drunk, the glass is turned upside down and tilted upwards so the fumes can be enjoyed through a straw.[6]

See also



1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

SAMBUCA, SAMBUTE, SAMBIUT, SAMBUE, SAMBUQUE, an ancient stringed instrument of Asiatic origin generally supposed to be a small triangular harp of shrill tone (Arist. Quint. Meib. ii. p. tot). The sambuca was probably identical with the Phoenician sabecha and the Aramaic sabka, the Greek form being o aµ(3vxn. The sabka is mentioned in Dan. iii. 5, 10, 15, where it is erroneously translated sackbut. The sambuca has been compared to the military engine of the same name by some classical writers; Polybius likens it to a rope ladder; others describe it as boat-shaped. Among the musical instruments known, the Egyptian nanga best answers to these descriptions. These definitions are doubtless responsible for the medieval drawings representing the sambuca as a kind of tambourine,' for Isidor elsewhere defines the symphonia as a tambourine. During the middle ages the word sambuca was applied (i) to a stringed instrument about which little can be discovered, (2) to a wind instrument made from the wood of the elder tree (sambucus). In an old glossary (Fundgruben, i. 368), article vloyt (flute), the sambuca is said to be a kind of flute. "Sambuca vel sambucus est quaedam arbor parva et mollis, unde haec sambuca est quaedam species symphoniae qui fit de illa arbore." Isidor of Seville (Etym. 2.20) describes it as "Sambuca in musicis species est symphoniarum. Est enim genus ligni fragilis unde et tibiae componuntur." In a glossary by Papias of Lombardy (c. 1053), first printed at Milan in 1476, the sambuca is described as a cithara, which in that century was generally glossed "harp," i.e. " Sambuca, genus cytherae rusticae." In Tristan (7563-72) the knight is enumerating to King Marke all the instruments upon which he can play, the sambiut being the last mentioned: "Waz ist daz, lieber mann?

- Daz veste Seitspiel daz ich kann." In a Latin-French glossary (M.S. at Montpelier, H. 1 10, fol. 212 v.) Psalterium = sambue. During the later middle ages sambuca was often translated sackbut in the vocabularies, whether merely from the phonetic similarity of the two words has not yet been established. The great Boulogne Psalter (xi. c.) contains, among other fanciful instruments which are evidently intended to illustrate the equally vague and fanciful descriptions of instruments in the apocryphal letter of S. Jerome, ad Dardanum, a Sambuca, which resembles a somewhat primitive sackbut (q.v.) without the bell joint. It is reproduced by Coussemaker, Lacroix and. Viollet-le-Duc, and has given rise to endless discussions without leading to any satisfactory solution. (K. S.)

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