Anisette is a liqueur made from anise seeds. It is generally sweet, with a flavor most similar to black licorice. Although different types of this anise liqueur can be purchased in many parts of the world, it originated in France and is also popular in Mediterranean countries, including Italy, Spain, and Greece. It can be served in a variety of ways, diluted with water or added to other mixed drinks, or straight, sometimes as an after-dinner drink. Anisette was originally produced to replace absinthe, another alcoholic beverage made from anise seed that has a higher alcohol content and has been banned for sale in some parts of the world. Some popular brands of anisette liqueur include Sambuca, Marie Brizard, and Ouzo, and it can be purchased for as little as $10 US Dollars (USD).
Anisette is made from the seeds of the anise plant, which is a member of the parsley family and grows naturally in the Mediterranean. The liqueur is most often clear, although different varieties of Sambuca can be yellow, red, or green. When served diluted with water, it can take on a whitish, milky appearance.
To make anisette, a variety of plants and seeds are first macerated, or soaked, in a combination of neutral spirit and sugar syrup. It is then distilled until it reaches about 25 percent alcohol by volume, although some varieties contain a higher percentage of alcohol. The sweetness and lower alcohol content can give this anise liqueur a smooth, sweet taste that makes it popular as an after-dinner drink.
There are a variety of ways to serve anisette. Some people drink it straight, at room temperature, while others prefer it chilled or served over ice. Still others mix it with water, and it is used in a number of different mixed drinks, including the Dubonnet royal and Russian roulette. Sometimes, coffee is flavored with the sweet-tasting spirit. Owing to its high sugar content, it can also be used to make cookies and biscotti.
Anisette was originally created as a replacement for absinthe, another anise liqueur with a much higher alcohol content. Absinthe was banned from sale in much of the world because it was thought to cause hallucinations, although research has shown that it may not actually affect the brain in this way. In the 1990s, absinthe production began again in some parts of the world, and a number of varieties are now available for purchase.