Review: Luxardo Sambuca
Rejoice, friends; The Rebel Bartender has reached a milestone. Thanks once again to the fine clerks at Plaza Liquors, the Bartender has her first free sample for review! In point of fact, this post represents two firsts; Luxardo also happens to be her first experience with sambuca of any sort. Keep in mind, therefore, that this is a purely objective review; the Bartender’s lack of comparative experience may make it less than useful to those experienced with the spirit. But every body of knowledge has to start with a few scattered facts; and it appears that today is a good day for fact-gathering. So here we go!
Sambuca (or, at least, white sambuca) is a simple creature. Anise is the major (perhaps only) flavoring in the stuff, and the nose makes that extremely clear. Very sweet, very potent, not very complex on its own – there’s a lot of black liquorice and not much else. However, sambuca is traditionally served with three coffee beans, representing (depending on the source) the Father, Son and Holy Ghost; health, wealth, and happiness; or “romance” (with no additional explanation offered). Whatever the symbolic importance, the beans are also important functionally – they add a much-needed extra dimension to the nose, the coffee and anise smells complementing each other nicely.
In this case, at least, what you smell is very much what you get. Anise, and lots of it, with sugar to round it out and really give you the “I’m drinking a liquid black jelly bean” feeling. It’s not unpleasant, once you get over the first shock, but a little one-note; chewing one of the coffee beans (again) gives the flavor a lot more depth. There’s a little bit of spirit burn in the back of the throat, just enough to give that proper sensation of warmth, and the mouth-feel is nicely creamy. (It’s worth noting that one of the uses of anise oil is as a topical anaesthetic; just a few sips of this stuff are enough to make the newbie’s tongue go noticeably numb.)
The Bartender is hesitant to give this spirit a specific rating, as (again) she has no real frame of reference with which to compare it. However, she does like anise, so for her, the experience as a whole was quite enjoyable. It might even make an interesting flavor base for a cocktail, though given the strength of it, she would guess that the corresponding advice would be to tread lightly. B+