Star anise flavors sambuca.Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
Sambuca, a cordial, finishes meals with, or in place of, dessert. It's semi-sweet anise flavoring complements coffee with cream or stands well by itself. The complexity of its flavoring pairs well with dark chocolate and cinnamon in pastries and confections. Sambuca's high alcohol content typically prevents its freezing in home and commercial freezers, making it the ideal chilled after-dinner drink.
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Genuine sambuca hails from Italy. Although the cordial comes in red, blue and black varieties, most sambuca has no color and appears completely clear in the bottle. It contains between 40 and 50 percent alcohol by volume and is flavored with star anise, elderflower oils, licorice root and sugar. Some sambuca varieties also contain honey. U.S. retailers must differentiate genuine and imitation sambuca types with labels.
Pure alcohol freezes at -173 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature unlikely to occur in nature or in freezers. Because drinks like beer and wine contain more water than alcohol, they freeze easily in home freezers if left long enough. Liquors that contain more alcohol than water, such as sambuca, freeze at lower temperatures than those at which home freezers run, making it nearly impossible to freeze them regardless of the length of time in the freezer.
Although the alcohol concentration of sambuca and sambuca-type liqueurs may vary, most high quality varieties contain over 40 percent alcohol. With such a high concentration of alcohol, sambuca must be stored at temperatures below 0 F to freeze solid. Even at temperatures that low, and down to -20 F, sambuca only partially freezes. If the sambuca freezes in a home freezer, it's likely been watered down in the bottle. Adding water raises its freezing temperature closer to that of water itself, 32 F. Sambuca labeled at lower than 80-proof contains less alcohol and may freeze in a home freezer.
Even though sambuca doesn't freeze, store it in the freezer to keep it chilled. Traditionally, pouring chilled sambuca into a cordial glass over three coffee beans symbolizes good luck for the drinker; an even number of coffee beans signifies bad luck. Alternatively, store the liqueur at room temperature and serve a shot in coffee with cream and allow the sambuca to sweeten the beverage.