Coffee’s bold and bitter character has made it a perfect partner for sambuca for decades, says Peter Hernandez, the regional bar operations supervisor at Wild Wild West in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He believes strongly flavored ingredients work best with the liqueur, especially when they’re used to make powerful, intense syrups. “Mint, pineapple, figs and coconut carry such strong flavor profiles that they seem quite capable of dancing along with sambuca’s strong flavors,” he says.
In this cocktail, Hernandez chooses figs as a foil for the anise-flavored liqueur, boiling them together with brown sugar and orange peels to create a sweet syrup that can “spruce up any cocktail,” he says. In this one, vodka provides a neutral canvas against which the coffee’s and syrup’s bitter and sweet notes can shine.
2 ounces New Amsterdam vodka
1 1/2 ounces espresso, freshly brewed
3/4 ounce sambuca syrup*
2 dashes chocolate bitters
Add all ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
*Sambuca syrup: Add 4 ounces sambuca, 2 ounces brown sugar (packed), 8 ounces sliced figs and 2 ounces orange peels into a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and mixture begins to boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool, then strain out and discard solids. Will keep, tightly covered and refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks.