Limiting black sambuca to the role of after-dinner drink, or digestif, is doing yourself -- and this Italian anise-flavored liqueur -- a disservice. Black sambuca is versatile, and works in just about any cocktail its white and red brethren do. Black sambuca's deep blue color distinguishes it from white, or colorless, sambuca and red sambuca. Black sambuca's licorice flavor is slightly more pronounced than in other varieties, and it also contains a whisper of lemon flavor.
Because sambuca is sweet with a mellow flavor, it can be enjoyed on its own, referred to as "neat," or with simple enhancements. In Italy, it's traditional to serve sambuca with three toasted coffee beans floating at the top to symbolize health, happiness and prosperity. You can also serve sambuca straight up -- shaken or stirred with ice and then strained into a cocktail glass.
Sambuca With Coffee
The rich anise flavor of black sambuca complements the bold richness of coffee flavor. Black sambuca can be used in coffee in place of sugar, or mixed with steamed milk for a sambuca "latte." For an elaborate coffee-based drink, make a sambuca frappe: Fill a glass with crushed ice, add 2 parts black sambuca, 1 part coffee liqueur and whipped cream to taste.
In cocktails, black sambuca pairs best with vodka and berry-based liqueurs. Try a black widow, which enhances black sambuca's slight lemon flavor: Mix equal parts citrus vodka and black sambuca, shake with ice and strain into a martini glass. For a rich, berry-flavored drink, mix 2 parts vodka, 1 part blackberry brandy and 1 part black sambuca. Shake with ice, strain into a martini glass and garnish with fresh blackberries.
An impressive way to serve a black sambuca is in a flaming shot, which has dramatic presentation and enhances the liqueur's flavor. Using a long lighter, light the shot on fire, but blow it out before you drink it to avoid injury. Not into pyrotechnics? In a shaker of crushed ice, mix equal parts black sambuca and black cherry liqueur. Pour in a chilled shot glass to serve.
Naomi Baldinger began writing professionally in 2007. Her areas of expertise include cooking, literature, film, Jewish culture, the nonprofit sector, education and translation. Her work has appeared in "Git Nu" and "The Journal of Jewish Identities" among other publications. Baldinger holds a Master of Arts in comparative literature from the University of California, Los Angeles.