Licorice-flavoured beverages are enjoyed, often as an aperitif (before a meal) or digestif (after a meal), in dozens of countries all over the world. The most commonly known licorice-flavoured drinks are Ouzo (Greece), Sambuca (Italy), Pastis, Pernod and Absinthe (France). Others include Arak (many Middle Eastern countries), Anisette/Anis (France, Spain), Raki (Turkey), Aguardiente and Xtabentun (Mexico).
Many of these liquors “louche” or go cloudy white when water is added to them – this has to do with the anise essential oil, anethole, that becomes less soluble as more water is added and forms larger droplets that give a cloudy appearance. Anethole is found in both anise (a largely Mediterranean herb) and star anise (an unrelated spice from northern China).
Most of these liquors are distilled (and I may well try that later in my still) but for starters I thought I would try making this infused vodka version to see how close I could get to the flavour I like. It is a creamy coloured liqueur rather than a clear one but it is pretty great tasting, and it is somewhat cloudy when water is added.
10 star anise pods
1 tablespoon licorice root
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon anise seeds
1 1/2 cups (375ml) vodka
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup (125ml) water
Roughly break up the star anise, licorice root, fennel, coriander, and anise seeds with a mortar and pestle.
Put into a sealable glass jar and add the vodka. Seal and shake, then let steep for about 5 days in a dark cupboard at room temperature, shaking occasionally.
Strain the spices out of the vodka mixture through a cheesecloth lined sieve. Strain twice if necessary.
Boil sugar and water together to form a light syrup.
Once syrup is cool, add it to the strained vodka infusion and shake. Let it rest for a week or so before drinking.