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Sambuca (Italian pronunciation: [samˈbuka]) is an Italian anise-flavoured, usually colourless, liqueur. Its most common variety is often referred to as white sambuca to differentiate it from other varieties that are deep blue in colour (black sambuca) or bright red (red sambuca). Like other anise-flavoured liquers, the ouzo effect is sometimes observed when combined with water.
Sambuca is flavoured with essential oils obtained from anise, star anise, liquorice and other spices. It also contains elderflowers. The oils are added to pure alcohol, a concentrated solution of sugar, and other flavouring. It is commonly bottled at 42% alcohol by volume.
The etymology is disputed: the Molinari company states that the name Sambuca comes from an Arabic word: Zammut. This was the name of an anise-flavoured drink that arrived to the port of Civitavecchia by ships coming from the East. The Oxford English Dictionary states, however, that the term comes from the Latin word sambucus, meaning "elderberry".
Other proposals[by whom?] are that it could have come from the Tamil name for fennel, soambu, where it is a regular ingredient in cooking, or that it comes from "sambuq", a type of Arabic ship which may originally have been used to import the drink and may hence have given it its name.
The Greek word Sambuca was first used as the name of another elderberry liquor that was created in Civitavecchia about 130 years ago.
The first commercial version of such a drink started at the end of 1800 in Civitavecchia, where Luigi Manzi started selling Sambuca Manzi. In 1945, soon after the end of Second World War, commendatore Angelo Molinari started producing Sambuca Extra Molinari, which helped popularise Sambuca throughout Italy.
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