What is Sambuca

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Sambuca is an aromatic liqueur with interesting pairing traditions and a unique flavor that you won’t forget!

What is Sambuca?

Sambuca is an Italian liqueur made from fermented sugar and anise oils, which produce its characteristically sweet and aromatic flavor. Other ingredients, such as licorice, elderflower, chili, and spices are optional extras and may be added depending on the brand. There are no glutenous ingredients in this type of alcohol, making it a good option for those with an intolerance.

Its ABV range varies from 38-42%, the lower limit is the legal minimum for the spirit and the most common. Sambuca is often drunk in shots – small quantities of 37–44 ml. There are approximately 100 calories in a single shot of Sambuca, most of which come from carbohydrates. A bottle of this liqueur can last a long time once opened but may lose some of its flavors if kept open and exposed to oxygen for years. 

Sambuca in shot glasses on a green and white checkered table

Sambuca is a colorless liqueur made from anise and has its origin in Italy. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

How to Drink?

There are many ways to drink Sambuca, let’s take a look at them in detail below.

  • Traditionally, it is drunk ‘con la Mosca’ – with a fly! These ‘flies’ come in the form of three coffee beans, which are put into the glass of neat liqueur.
  • It is possible to set fire to this drink, due to the high alcohol content, thus toasting the coffee beans. The beans are then chewed while drinking, as anise and coffee are considered complementary flavors. In this way, this specialty drink can be enjoyed both as an aperitif and a digestif.
  • If you’re not a coffee fan, you might prefer to drink Sambuca in simple shot form.
  • Alternatively, some people choose to drink this flavorful spirit on the rocks, with just a splash of water.
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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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