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A Beautiful Day on Islay

All About Anise

I attended a good portion of a seminar called Anise: Treasure of the Mediterranean at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans this July. Though I couldn't stay until the very end, the seminar was great. 

The speakers were Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller of Mixellany, Franesco LaFranconi of Southern Wine & Spirits, and Orietta Varnelli of Varnelli. 

Like all things at Tales of the Cocktail, my memory is spotty when it comes to the seminar, so here are my notes copied and pasted from my iPad. I hope someone writes a book on anise liqueurs (HINT HINT Mixellany) so we can learn more about the topic.

Here's what I wrote down: 

  • Green anise and star anise are unrelated plants but both contain anethol
  • green anise is fennel
  • you should add water first and then ice when serving anise liqueurs
  • need to make anise spirits on copper alembic- copper interacts with grape spirit. also anise is delicate and too much heat would make it soapy
  • sambuca -1930s miletta (sp?) company created Sambuca
  • Chinchon - lighter and thinner than varanelli
  • Raki - an anise spirit - more intense than others. not much head and tails removed so it's a rougher base spirit
  • Lebanon - Razzouk - arak - more like a grappa base spirit
  • Ouzo - greek - has more than anise and fennel. some have bitter almonds, sometimes licorice
  • Licorice adds the perception of sweetness in spirits. Old Tom gin - some of it had no sugar, but used anise and licorice root in double the amount of juniper.
  • Marie Brizard anisette- 11 botanicals
  • Sambuca - has to be at least 76 proof, and 38 grams of sugar per liter (see comment for a possible correction to this)
  • recipes from some anise products date back to medical journals from 1600s
  • pastis - comes from a word that means lasagna, a mix/mess (referring to louche)
  • sage has 10 times the amount of thujone as wormwood


Anise seminar 9

This is how the seminar was described:

…LOVE ANISE? Then Join Francesco Lafranconi-winner of the TOC 2009 Best Presenter Award- and his illustrious guests: Mrs. Varnelli-CEO of Distilleria Varnelli S.p.a. and Member of The Ordre Internationale des Anysetiers, and the inseparable cocktail couple, Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown-Directors of Mixellany Limited. They will transport you through an incredible historical and cultural journey, including an exclusive tasting of anise-based liqueurs and aperitifs produced among some of the most cultural-rich Mediterranean countries.

Anise has a history of use as a spice and fragrance. It has been cultivated for at least 4,000 years.

Since the 12th century, the caravans were bringing anise from China to Alexandria, where the precious seeds were shipped to Genoa and Marseille, two major hubs of the Mediterranean Sea trade, before being sent to Paris to be assigned to Anysetiers. After maceration and distillation of the resulting paste, they used to manufacture drugs, ointments and liquids then they catered Kings and Lords.

Found in nature two different species of this plant which belongs to the Umbelliferae family: anise (Pimpinella anisum) and star anise, or anise (Illicium anisatum).

Nowadays, it is becoming increasingly fashionable to satisfy the palate of the guests and for their pleasure, to serve many cocktails containing anise. Finally, in order to be exhaustive, let us not forget its use in its usual form of aniseed aperitif and liqueurs as presented by some major Italian, French, Spanish, Greek and Libanese spirits brands.

As a special occasion during Tales of the Cocktail, The Ordre Internationale des Anysetiers will launch the FIRST chapter in the United States to revive the legend and tradition of the medieval guild of Anysetier, BIG THANK YOU TO VARNELLI!

We look forward to having you join as a member of this treasured and historical guild established in 1263!



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That's really interesting! Do you know where can I find a video of that seminar/ who did it?
Jonatan London
ps for sambuca the minimum is 350gr per liter according to european regulations

Camper English

Hi Jonatan - There was no film of this seminar that I know about, unfortunately. I have added some text about the speakers. I hope this information is published somewhere soon by the experts.

For Sambucca - you're probably right! I haven't seen the actual EU regulations.


Fennel and anise are not the same plant, although they have a similar flavor.

Brian Means

It was a really great seminar, I learned quite a bit and hopefully we can incorporate more anise into drinks as bartenders. Thanks for taking better notes than me Camper!

Camper English

They said "green anise" is fennel, not regular anise. I'd not heard the term green anise before.


The EU law also talkes about a lot of other booze too, here irt is for everybody to consult, just copy and paste in your browser and open the file:

Camper English

Thanks for the link! I'm sure I'll refer to this much in the future.


OK. I get the hint. A Mixellany Guide to Anise Spirits is on the research list. Cheers, Anistatia

Fiona Rairigh

Check your botanicals. Illicium anisatum is actually Japanese Star Anise and is quite toxic. You want Illicium verum, which is Chinese Star Anise. Also, it is in the Illiciaceae/Magnoliaceae family. Very different from Apiaceae/Umbeliferae.

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