Sambuca is a relatively new liqueur having only been in production since the late 1800's.
Sambuca, from the Latin 'sambucas' meaning elderberry (one of it's botanical elements), is a strong, sugary-sweet tasting liqueur, flavoured with star anise, licorice and the aforementioned elderberry.
Said to have originated in the Italian port of Civitavecchia with it's recipe created by a resident, one Luigi Manzi born on the island of Ischia who moved to Civitavecchia in 1836, and whose recipe from 1851 used 'green anise' from Ischia which has a drier flavour than the 'star anise' used in later recipes after 'Sambuca Manzi' was first made available. His inspiration is said to have come from Arabic Zammut which came through the port of Civitavecchia around the same time.
Whilst Sambuca Manzi continued production, it was Angelo Molinari who established his sambuca company in 1945, releasing 'Sambuca Extra Molinari', and with it's sweeter, more palatable style, grew hugely in popularity, firstly in Italy and then spreading throughout Europe and the world.
Typically drunk neat and chilled and after dinner as a 'liquori digestivi', or served with coffee. The bitterness of the coffee off-set by the sweet sambuca is a perfect serve throughout Italian restaurants as an 'ammazzacaffè' or added to the coffee to make a 'caffè corretto'.
Sambuca may also be served with coffee beans. Just one bean serves as a 'con la mosca', translated as 'with the fly'. When served with three beans, it is said to symbolise health, happiness and prosperity or the holy trinity.
Ice or water is often added and will make the liqueur go cloudy, similar to that of Pastis and Absinthe, which 'louches' when water is added.
There are very dark blue sambuca available as well as the clear, commonly called black sambuca and a red version exists too.