Sambuca Drink Recipes

Are you wondering whether you’re having your Sambuca drink the right way? Well, there is actually no right or wrong way to enjoy your anise-flavored white sambuca. Some people love it neat, some with coffee beans, while others prefer it in a cocktail. 

However, a little knowledge of Sambuca and how others are enjoying it could give you ideas. In this article, you’ll learn the history of Sambuca, how you can drink it, and several amazing recipes.

What is Sambuca?

The Sambuca drink is a traditional Italian liquor that is regarded as one of the world’s greatest digestifs. If you were looking for a drink that you’d enjoy after a meal to help with digestion, search no more, Sambuca is what you’ve been looking for.

Sambuca is mainly flavored with aniseed – popularly known as anise. This is a spice with a  black licorice-taste. It also contains other spices and herbs. You’ll come across different brands of Sambucas, but their general flavor profile is the same. However, each brand usually has a secret recipe.

You can enjoy your Sambuca straight at room temperature or a little chilled. Others prefer to use it in cocktails and shooters. The origin of Sambuca is still a matter of debate. 

Sambuca drink with coffee beans, Sambuca Drink Recipes - The Proud Italian

First, the name Sambuca is believed to be a derivative of the Latin word Elderberry. But, even though Sambuca contains elderberry in some recipes, it is not among the primary ingredients.

According to others, Sambuca was derived from the word Zammut, an Arabic drink with an anise flavor. The Zammut came into Italy through the port of Civitavecchia, which some people believe is the origin of Sambuca. This theory seems to be a more accurate explanation of the name’s source.  

Sambuca was first produced for commercial purposes in Italy in 1851 by Luigi Manzi. He suggested that it was an excellent Anisette that was great for the stomach after a meal. He also claimed that he named the drink after the Sambuchelli watermen, who worked between Ischia Island and Naples.

Sambuca Manzi was well-liked locally but took almost a century to make an international breakthrough. The breakthrough was not achieved until 1945 when Angelo Molinari began producing his own Sambuca drink for the global market. It was this drink that launched Sambuca’s international reputation.

Molinari Sambuca was hailed for using first-class ingredients to produce a top-quality drink. Its quality was acknowledged by the Italian government and was the only drink allowed to use the term “Extra” as a suffix to its name.

Coctail with Sambuca, Sambuca Drink Recipes - The Proud Italian

How to Make Sambuca

You can make your own sambuca drink from a pure and neutral base alcohol distillate sourced from grain or molasses. The main ingredients you must have include alcohol, star anise, and sugar. 

In some instances, you can use green anise. You can also include other botanicals like Elderflower, Fennel, and Licorice. Once you have your preferred ingredients ready, follow the process below:

  1. Heat demineralized water to about 70 degrees Celsius, and then mix it with sugar to make syrup. (Sambuca usually contains a considerable amount of sugar. It is recommended to use 350 grams per liter.)
  2. Blanch and crush the star anise about 100 grams,  then extract its essential oils through steam distillation. You’ll need a home distillation kit to perform steam distillation. Begin the process by filling the boiling flask with distilled water and connect it to the biomass flask. Put your anise in the biomass flask which is usually open on both ends and connects to the boiling flask from the bottom and the arm from the top. Use the heating element to heat the distilled water to produce the steam. The arm connects the biomass flask with the condenser and collects steam from the biomass flask to the condenser. The condenser converts the vapor back to liquid using cold water. The liquid then flows to the receiver which separates the essential oil from the hydrosol. If you follow this process, you’ll have your essential oils ready for the next step. 
  3. Combine the ingredients and leave them to rest for almost one week in huge steel containers.
  4. After the mixture has settled, filter it at room temperature. Avoid chill-filtering because it results in the louche effect (when you add water to your sambuca it forms a cloudy oil-in-water emulsion; this is what is usually referred to as the louche effect.) and removes the critical oils.

Glass bowl with green anise seeds, Sambuca Drink Recipes - The Proud Italian

How to Drink Sambuca

Even though there is no right or wrong way of drinking Sambuca, it is always trendy to observe some Italian customs. However, you’re also at liberty to discern your own way of enjoying your Sambuca drink. People want their Sambuca with a coffee bean or on the rocks with some ice on many occasions.

You can also dilute a little bit with ice water or use it as an ingredient in your cocktail to produce some great flavors. The best way to take your Sambuca will largely depend on your taste and preferences. You are not restricted to a particular recipe; you can experiment and get your personal touch to the drink.

Sambuca Cocktails

There are several Sambuca-based cocktails you can make. Here are some unique, but simple recipes to get you started:

Sambuca con la Mosca

Flaming Sambuca shot, Sambuca Drink Recipes- The Proud Italian

Sambuca con la Mosca is a simple Italian tradition that is straightforward to prepare. It uses three coffee beans representing health, prosperity, and happiness.

What you need

  • White Sambuca – 2 ounces
  • Toasted coffee beans  – 3


  • Pour the sambuca in a whiskey tumbler glass.
  • Put in the three coffee beans.
  • If you’re daring enough, you can light up the sambuca and extinguish before you serve. Here are precautions you must observe when dealing with fire around your sambuca. First, never drink your sambuca while it is still on fire, you could get third degree burns on your face. Also, don’t leave your drink burning for long as it could explode. As you put out the flame, don’t blow out the flame. There is a risk of blowing flaming alcohol to other flammable surfaces like curtains. instead, extinguish the fire using a coffee mug by covering the flame with it.  

Raspberry-Basil Sambuca Martini

Raspberry-Basil Sambuca Martini, Sambuca Drink Recipes - The Proud Italian

Use this recipe to prepare two martinis.

What you need

  • 10 raspberries, add extra for decoration
  • 4 basil leaves
  • ¾ of an orange freshly squeezed to get orange juice
  • ¾ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ¾ ounce White Sambuca
  • ¾ ounce London dry gin
  • Ice


  • Freeze a martini glass.
  • Add the raspberries and basil leaves in a cocktail shaker.
  • Put in lime juice, orange juice, gin, Sambuca, and ice.
  • Shake the cocktail until it blends well
  • Strain into the frozen martini glass and garnish with a raspberry.   

Sambuca Citrus Martini

Sambuca Citrus Martini, Sambuca Drink Recipes - The Proud Italian

This sambuca recipe produces a crisp citrus martini with a licorice flavor.

What you need

  • 1 lemon wedge
  • 100 grams fine-textured sugar
  • ¾ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¾ ounce White Sambuca
  • 1 1/2 ounces citrus vodka
  • Ice
  • Lemon twist for decoration


  • Freeze a martini glass.
  • Roll the lemon wedge around the rim of two martini glasses.
  • Spread the sugar evenly on a plate.
  • Dip the martini glass rims into the sugar to rim the glass with sugar.
  • Combine the vodka, sambuca, lemon juice, and ice in a cocktail shaker.
  • Shake until the cocktail is mixed together.
  • Strain into the prepared martini glasses.
  • Garnish with lemon slices.

 Sambuca Lemonade

Sambuca Lemonade, Sambuca Drink Recipes - The Proud Italian

This is a recipe well suited for a summer afternoon with a lemonade twist. You’ll make one cocktail with this recipe.

What you need

  • Crushed ice
  • 1ounce White Sambuca
  • 5 ounces lemonade
  • Lemon slices and mint sprigs for garnish


  • Fill a tall glass with crushed ice.
  • Add the Sambuca and lemonade and stir.
  • Garnish with lemon slices and mint springs (optional)


Sambuca is an excellent drink, mainly because it can be taken in different variations. Whether you just want a shot with some water or coffee beans or prefer its flavor in a cocktail, it never disappoints. It is also worth learning from the Italians who have some fantastic Sambuca recipes.