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The Flavour of a Classic - Sambuca Origins + Molinari Production

By Amira Ansari posted 11-19-2020 17:51


A message from our partners at Molinari:

The origin and meaning of the term “sambuca” remain uncertain. It has nothing to do with the sambucus plant (or elderberry), even though this etymology is accepted by many dictionaries. Elderberry, in fact, is not one of the herbs contained in sambuca. Among the various hypotheses, which are difficult to confirm, is that it possibly derives from the Arabic word “zammut”, conjugated with the concept of “pleasant fragrance”. According to the business, Luigi Manzi’s version is unlikely: as the first person to produce sambuca in Civitavecchia (Antica Sambuca Manzi 1851), in a letter dated June 1851, he wrote that he chose that name as a tribute to the “sambuchelli” or “acquaioli” (sellers of water and anise) from the native isle of Ischia.   


(left) Molinari Civitavecchia Production site circa 1970s   |   Molinari Colfelice Production site (right)

Today the original formula of the liqueur is jealously guarded by the Molinari family and is passed down from generation to generation. The recipe includes alcohol, spring water, sugars and a mixture of herbs and spices. Star anise, which should not be confused with green anise, is the distinguishing element of sambuca. It is an exotic evergreen of the magnolia family, originally from Southern China and Indochina. It is grown in Java, the Philippines, Japan and Vietnam. It is a shrub with bark that is light in colour, like the magnolia, and it gives off a strong aromatic fragrance. The flowers, made up of 8 to 12 carpals for each ovary, together form a fruit that is star shaped and its points open to release a seed. The fragrance is similar to common anise (green anise), but it is sweeter, with a fragrant and sugary flavour. 

Mr. and Mrs. Angelo Molinari on production site

Production of Sambuca Molinari Extra takes place in four phases.

  1. Distillation of the seeds -- The star anise seeds are vapour distilled to obtain the essential oils making up the base of the sambuca. It is these oils that give the liqueur its strong anise fragrance.
  2. Infusion -- The oils obtained are macerated and infused in pure alcohol.
  3. Natural aromas -- A mixture of natural aromas is added to a solution of sugar syrup.
  4. Decantation -- After a period of decantation, the product is finally filtered and bottled.

Molinari production site/bottling

The end result is a completely crystal-clear liqueur. To the nose it is sweet and persistent, with the unmistakable hint of star anise. On the palate its entry is pleasant, warm and full. It is enveloping, with a lingering flavour of anise, and it has an ABV of 42%.

Sambuca Molinari Extra is an extremely versatile product and the ways in which it is consumed allow it to cut across all latitudes and to be enjoyed at any time of the day. It can be had neat, as a digestif, thanks to the properties of the star anise that make it pleasant after a meal; iced or on ice, to best appreciate its unmistakable flavour, making it a refreshing liqueur; as correction for coffee or enriched with the traditional three coffee beans. In cocktails, sambuca comes through strongly as the distinguishing element and a flavour enhancer.

Fun Fact:  Molinari has long been a #1 selling brand, globally. One of the reasons for this success is in 1968, the Italian Supreme Court awarded Molinari Sambuca the “Extra” designation for its choice ingredients and superior quality.  Although other brands may list “Extra” on their label, no other brands have been awarded this designation. 

BarTales Magazine Article BY ALESSANDRO PALANCA  | FULL article HERE – Click on page 22.

For more information on Molinari Extra Sambuca

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Contact Mara Lee with Molinari -- | 773.339.3391