Sambuca doesn't really matter.
So why am I writing about sambuca?
Because I love it. Anise is a strange flavor in America, and sambuca only has three ingredients: spirit, anise and sugar. Sambuca is the vintage polyester, fast food uniform found at a thrift store of the spirits world. But you know what? Vintage McDonald's uniforms are fucking dope. Aside from sambuca being an out of date underdog, for me, it's the perfect example of "the way you do anything, is the way you do everything."
For example, most bars, even fancy bars, only stock a low-cost & low-quality sambuca, created for the American market. Sometimes you'll see a higher quality brand that I personally boycott due to their use of Columbus day in their marketing. I choose Meletti because it's $20 a bottle, family owned, very good, high proof and Matteo Meletti is my buddy. And that is precisely my point, why did any given bar choose their sambuca? Let's be honest, it was chosen the same way a stray cat is chosen— it shows up one day and it won't leave.
So, does the bar serve and an inauthentic brand? A brand that is outdated in a moderately genocidal way? Me, I think avoiding genocide is a safe bet in marketing. Or does the bar make an educated decision on their stock, you know, the same way they treat every precious "small batch" whiskey?
How does the bar serve sambuca? You know how a lot of bartenders serve sambuca? On fire. Fire, while exciting, sexy and cool, is so, because it's also quite dangerous. In my time behind the bar, I found that a glass on fire for just ten seconds gets hot enough to put a herpes blister-ish mark on a guest's lip. This is often how sambuca is served when it has a Sinatra chaser.
Plenty of bars, well, actually more clubs, will serve sambuca in a shot glass without asking. Sambuca has long been bro shot in places that are loud enough that guys yell things like "LET ME GET, THREE NO WAIT.... WHAT SLATER? NO, YEAH, THREE SAMBUCAS," he bellows, making the American sign language sign for "OK" that assholes also use to signal the number 3.
Bars that I frequent, almost exclusively use sambuca in caffè corretto (a drink I'll cover later in the week) and the bottle is left out, bereft of glassware, next to the espresso machine. Frankly, it's mostly for employee use.
Consider these things as I discuss sambuca going forward. If you are a bar, did you choose your sambuca with the same care as the other things on your menu? If you are a drinker, have you considered revisiting this glorious Italian liqueur? Like most anything worth doing, the first try, the novice's take, is only a tiny part of what sambuca is and what it can do.