What? A liquorice flavoured liqueur flavoured with the essential oils from star anise and the white petals of the elderberry flower with sugar added to sweeten. Although it is usually clear in colour, it can also be deep dark blue which is commonly known a Black (Nera) Sambuca.
Where? Italy. Sambuca is made pretty much all over Italy but it originated in Civitavecchia, in the province of Rome where today the largest and most famous brands are located.
When? Towards the end of the 1800's the first evidence of "Sambuca" was created in Civitavecchia, Rome. It wasn't until around 100 years later that a commercial version was produced known as Sambuca Manzi which is still in production today in Civitavecchia. After World War 2 Sambuca gained widespread popularity throughout Italy and eventually the world.
How? It is often served as a shot with some imbibers setting it on fire before knocking it back. Traditionally it is served as a digestif following a meal. In Italy it is often enjoyed as a ammazzacaffé (coffee killer), drunk after a coffee to cleanse the mouth. But the most romantic way to enjoy a Sambuca is known a Sambuca con la mosca meaning "Sambuca with the flies," which includes three roasted coffee beans said to signify prosperity, health, and happiness; the Holy Trinity.
Where To Start? It depends on how you want to drink it. The black or even red Sambucas are great for the use in cocktails and shooters but if you want to enjoy Sambuca in the traditional way, the white, clear stuff is best. Try one of the originals, Molinari Sambuca Extra 38% 70cl is a classic.