In 1851 Luigi Manzi created the recipe for a liqueur that would aid digestion and help relieve gas discomfort. I can see it now. Luigi feels terrible after every meal. He’s gassy, bloated, and generally uncomfortable. He had a choice; change his eating habits or invent a new liqueur that could help him feel better regardless of how many servings of lasagna he put down. Who are we kidding, the man’s Italian so he had no choice.
He called his creation sambuca. Sambuco is the Italian word for elderberry, one of the ingredients that could be used in the making of this liqueur but that’s not why he named it sambuca. In one of Luigi’s letters saved in the Manzi family archive, he explained that he called it sambuca after the ‘sambuchelli,’ the water carriers in Naples and Ischia that distributed water and anise liquor to field laborers.
SAMBUCA CON LA MOSCA
You’ve seen sambuca served with a coffee bean inside a dozen if not a hundred times, but where did this practice come from? During the filming of the Federico Fellini classic, “La Dolce Vita” in Rome, the cast would drink sambuca quite a bit and one of the actors tossed a coffee bean into another’s drink to play a prank. He yelled, “Watch out! There’s a fly in your sambuca!” and we’ve been drinking it that way ever since. Although sambuca con la mosca, meaning sambuca with the fly, started off a prank it’s worth trying it. The roasted coffee bean crunch and toasty, nutty flavor following the rich, sweet licorice is loved by many.
The coffee bean tradition has been taken to another level where bartenders put three coffee beans in the sambuca representing health, happiness, and prosperity. We can all drink to that!
Romana Black shows an ominous dark blue color in the glass with a full-bodied viscosity. The essence of intense anise and black licorice on the nose makes it where if you like black licorice, you’ll absolutely love Romana Black, but if it’s not really your thing, move along to something else. On the palate the sweet, black licorice is confirmed along with a warming, deep alcohol heat. If you have an opportunity to have sambuca flambéed by a professional, it offers an interesting and fun way to have this Italian classic.
Cigar Pairing: Diesel Sunday Gravy
The Sunday Gravy by Diesel Cigar is chock full of wood, black pepper and hazelnut notes. The medium plus strength of the cigar stands up nicely to the alcohol heat of the Romana Black. The preferred order of consumption is to sip the sambuca first followed by the drawing from the cigar. By tasting in this manner the smoke is able to marry with the lingering alcohol and sweetness of the sambuca and settle into a nutty deliciousness that does more than please the senses.
We partnered with Total Wine & More to put this feature together and Pablo Estades was instrumental in making it happen. Thanks, Pablo.