How to Make Coffee Sambuca

Coffee Sambuca

The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Prep: 1 mins
Cook: 1 mins
Total: 2 mins
Serving: 1 serving
Yield: 1 drink

Coffee sambuca is probably one of the easiest Italian coffee drinks to make. The strong anise flavor of sambuca pairs beautifully with the earthy notes of the coffee and it's a delicious beverage to sip slowly after a hearty meal. Although it's very popular in southern Italy, the eastern region of Le Marche is where you'd find this drink most often. Coffee sambuca is also known in Italian as "ghiaccio e mosche", which translates to "ice and flies"—where the "flies" obviously refer to the floating coffee beans. To make coffee sambuca, all you need to do is float three coffee beans—never an even number of beans as it is considered bad luck—in one to two ounces of sambuca and sip it slowly as an aperitif or digestif. The three coffee beans symbolize health, happiness, and prosperity. To complement the anise notes in the sambuca, the beans can be chewed on.

The combination of coffee and liquor is very common in many Mediterranean and Latin traditions, as alcoholic beverages like ouzo, brandy, Kahlua, or Tía María are added to espresso coffees to enjoy as a post-meal or mid-afternoon pause. The difference is that in coffee sambuca, coffee is a light flavoring to the otherwise generous shot of sambuca. But in traditional caffé corretti, as they are known in Italy, a splash of brandy, grappa, or sambuca is added to an espresso or double espresso. In either case, coffee and liqueur is a combination you'll likely enjoy.

Some drinkers prefer to light the beverage on fire, known as flaming coffee sambuca, because it lightly toasts the beans—if you do choose to flame this drink, take caution as a fire fueled by alcohol can burn tablecloths, napkins, hair, and clothing.

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Ingredients

  • 3 whole coffee beans

  • 1 to 2 ounces sambuca, chilled or room temperature

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Coffee Sambuca ingredients

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  2. Pour sambuca into a small, clear glass.

    Pour sambuca into a small, clear glass

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  3. Float coffee beans on top and serve. Enjoy!

    Coffee Sambuca

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

What Is Sambuca?

Sambuca is a traditional Italian liqueur predominantly flavored with anise or aniseed, along with other herbs and spices. Each brand of sambuca has its own, and often secret, recipe and while all sambucas have the same general flavor profile, there are subtle differences.

Sambuca can be drunk straight, like in this recipe, either at room temperature or slightly chilled. It is also commonly used in a variety of cocktails and shooters like the B-53. If you come across a cocktail recipe that simply states 'anise liqueur,' sambuca is one of your best options to use.

Sambuca comes in three colors: white (clear), red, and black (more of a deep purple or blue). Popular brands include Molinari, Romano, Luxardo, Galliano, Sambuca di Amore, Opal Nera, and Zambello.

What Is Caffé Corretto?

Caffè corretto is another popular Italian drink that showcases liquor and coffee in a single cup. It means 'corrected coffee' and is as simple as adding a drizzle of sambuca, grappa, or brandy to a freshly made espresso. However, if you're ordering a caffè corretto in Italy, be sure to specify the liquor, saying either "un caffè corretto alla grappa," or "un caffè corretto alla sambuca."

How Strong Is a Coffee Sambuca?

Most sambuca has an alcohol content of 42 percent ABV (84 proof). It is not a light liqueur, and is slightly stronger than the average vodka. Two ounces of sambuca thus have 42 percent ABV.

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