Walking through fire

17 June, 2016

By definition, sambuca is a transparent, colourless, anis-based spirit and some brands are, understandably, sticklers for the rules. Molinari is one such.

Export director Giuseppe Bellotti says: “Molinari has decided to comply with this philosophy and to avoid associating its sambuca with any flavours or artificial colouring.” Molinari Caffé, with a strong component of sambuca in addition to extract of Arabica coffee and natural colouring, does not include the word sambuca on its label. “This is in line with our philosophy,” Bellotti is quick to add.

“We believe the respect of the original characteristics and the emphasising of the heritage and credibility of sambuca must be maintained while moving on in the process of globalisation and modernisation of the category,” he says.

Rossi D’Asiago falls on the other side of the fence and offers nine ‘sambuca-based flavours’, including apple, raspberry, liquorice, tropical, banana, cherry and coffee.

Asked how important flavours are, export director Nicola Dal Toso, says: “Very.” She adds: “Over the past few years there has been an increase in demand for flavoured spirits and liqueurs. People are becoming more open to trying different flavoured drinks and a cocktail culture has become dominant in Europe, especially in the UK.

“Our products not only allow a consumer to choose from a variety of interesting flavours but they also have the choice of consumption – whether it be in a cocktail or in shot form, our products offer superior taste.”


It is a challenge for suppliers and bartenders to see sambuca as more than just a shot. Luxardo’s Chapman says his company has explored long serves in the past, but admits it’s difficult as the perception of the category is very much of a shot category. “Perception has been long established and trying to break that would be very difficult. At Luxardo our focus is on having quality products and we see that shots are the main driver for consumption.”

Molinari, to an extent, agrees, with Bellotti saying: “One of the biggest challenges for the sambuca category is to widen the ways and the occasions of consumption in order to recruit new consumers. In a number of markets we co-operate with local mixologists to educate the professional bartenders, enhancing the possibilities to create cocktails with Molinari.”

The brand is present in more than 80 countries and welcomes any change in consumption – if it were to happen. “We will benefit from the expansion of consumption in markets where it is currently at niche level,” says Bellotti. If change is to come then Bellotti is keen it happens in the right way, without compromise.

“To fully seize the opportunity it is crucial that the sambuca category, while it is moving towards a more modern consumers’ perception and ways of consumption, firmly maintains its heritage, craft characteristics, credibility and premium position.”

If the likes of Molinari can premiumise and open the door for other brands there is hope that sambuca can, if not challenge tequila, then at least fan the category’s flames before it is extinguished by the competition.


Nick Strangeway


Happy customers across the UK enjoyed their first pints and non-homemade cocktails at the start of July as its hospitality sector reopened after months of lockdown. But normal service has hardly resumed.