Sambuca, an Italian liqueur flavoured with anise, is most commonly served as a digestif, or after-meal drink. Black sambuca is distinguished by its deep blue colour, which distinguishes it from white, or colourless sambuca and red sambuca. The liquorice flavour of black sambuca is slightly more pronounced than that of other varieties, and it is often made with a hint of lemon zest flavour. It can be served in a number of different ways.
Because sambuca is sweet and mellow-flavoured, it can be enjoyed neat (on its own), or with very simple enhancements. In Italy, it's traditional to serve sambuca with three toasted whole coffee beans floating at the top to symbolise health, happiness and prosperity. Chewing the coffee beans enhances the sambuca's anise flavour. You can also serve sambuca straight up --- shaken or stirred with ice and then strained into a cocktail glass.
Sambuca and coffee
The rich anise flavour of black sambuca complements coffee flavours very well. Black sambuca can be used in coffee in place of sugar. Add some steamed milk to make a sambuca latte. For a fancier, but very refreshing drink, make a sambuca frappé by filling a glass with crushed ice, then adding 30 ml black sambuca, 15 ml coffee liqueur and whipped cream if desired.
In cocktails, black sambuca pairs best with vodka and berry liqueurs. Try a black widow, which enhances black sambuca's slight lemon flavour: mix equal parts citrus vodka and black sambuca, shake with ice and strain into a martini glass. For a rich, berry-flavoured drink, mix up 90 ml vodka, 45 ml blackberry brandy and 45 ml black sambuca. Shake with ice, strain into a martini glass and top with fresh blackberries as a garnish.
An impressive way to serve a black sambuca is in a flaming shot, which has dramatic presentation and enhances the liqueur's flavour. Using a long lighter, light the shot on fire, but blow it out before you drink it to avoid injury. Not into the pyrotechnics? Shake and strain 25 ml black sambuca with 25 ml black cherry liqueur and pour into a shot glass.