Anise Liqueurs: A Liquorice Treat for Grownups

Anise Liqueurs - star anise in a bottle

Parsley has a cousin that might surprise you: anise, which imparts the flavor we think of as licorice. Anise is the cornerstone of the liqueur anisette and over a dozen others from all over the world.

Anise liqueur was developed in France, although it is now popular around the world, and made in various forms in several countries. The French made their original, somewhat sweet, nutty drink by grinding at least ten varieties of seeds to flavor a neutral spirit. They added syrup to raise the sugar level, and let the mixture ferment until it reached roughly 25% alcohol by volume.

By maintaining a ceiling on its alcohol content, distillers of anise-flavored liqueurs create delightful after dinner drinks whose sweetness and texture makes them just the right touch at dessert.

Drinking Anise Around the World

Fans of the flavor enjoy it straight, whether at room temperature, slightly chilled, or on the rocks, under a variety of trade names, recipe variations, and geographical origins, including:

  • Absinthe (France)
  • Anis del Toro (Spain)
  • Anisette (France)
  • Arak (Middle East)
  • Galliano (Italy)
  • Herbsaint (United States)
  • Ouzo (Greece)
  • Raki (Turkey)
  • Sambuca (Italy)

Anise-flavored liqueurs are a key ingredient in many well-known mixed drinks.

A Russian Roulette, for example, consists of:

  • a 1/2 an ounce (15 ml) of Kahlua,
  • 1/2 an ounce of vodka, and
  • 1/2 an ounce of anisette, gently stirred.

The legendary Harvey Wallbanger contains:

  • 3 parts Vodka
  • 1 part Galliano
  • 6 parts fresh orange juice

To prepare, stir up the orange juice and vodka in a tumbler, and pour the Galliano gently, so it floats over the top. Drop in a maraschino cherry, and garnish the glass with the traditional orange slice.

Make Your Own Anise Liqueur at Home

If you’ve a DIY bent, you can make your own crude anise liqueur. Buy some fresh anise seed in a mortar with pestle. Your goal is to have 3 ounces of ground seeds to add to either a liter of plain spirits (grain alcohol) or vodka. Combine them in an airtight container and put it in a dark spot.

After a week or so, strain the liquid. Separately, make simple syrup by adding 2 lbs (1 kg) of sugar to a 1/2 quart (1/2 liter) of pure water and boil. Cool the syrup to room temperature. Mix this with your spirits. Put it back in the airtight container in the dark and don’t touch it for six months.

The results may not rival the legends of Absinthe or pique the curiosity like Ouzo, but you can drink them, and entertain your friends with tales of your project.


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