Alcohol and anise are a time-honored combination. Sambuca, ouzo, arak, pastis—these, and dozens more, carry the sharp and oh-so-distinctive taste of anise. (It’s a taste that can be an acquired one.)
But we’ve never tried a fennel liqueur, until making the acquaintance of the Finocchietto, made by Washington, D.C.-based Don Ciccio & Figli. There’s a bold, bright fennel flavor, but one that’s light and balanced, rather than the aggressive anise hit that spirits can bring. It reminds us how fresh and vibrant fennel can be. And at a far lower ABV than every anise-flavored spirit out there, it’s easy to integrate into cocktails. Here are three original drinks we love.
Easy: Pompelmo e Finocchio
Bittersweet grapefruit is a perfect pairing for fennel, and this drink couldn’t be easier: simply combine equal parts of fresh ruby red grapefruit juice, fennel liqueur, and club soda in a glass with ice. Insanely refreshing, and low-proof enough for a second round.
Instructions: In a tall glass with ice, combine two ounces of fennel liqueur, two ounces of fresh grapefruit juice, and two ounces of club soda. Stir briefly, and garnish with a few half-moons of ruby red grapefruit.
Intermediate: Fennel Martini
Herbaceous gin meshes beautifully with the fennel liqueur. Add in a good dry vermouth (like Dolin Dry) and you’ve got an elegant fennel-laced martini, just as crisp and bold as the original, but with a vivid fennel flavor—and the potential for a gorgeous garnish.
Instructions: In a mixing glass with ice, combine an ounce of gin, an ounce of fennel liqueur, and an ounce of dry vermouth. Stir until very well-chilled, then strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a large lemon twist and, if you so choose, a fennel frond.
Advanced: Finocchio Verde
Since we loved the freshness of the Finocchietto, we decided to dial it up. Muddled cucumber brings out the liqueur’s vegetal qualities, while lemon perks it up and vodka doesn’t get in the way. So bright and green, it almost tastes healthy. (Almost.)
Instructions: In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, muddle one 1/4-inch cucumber slice until it’s well-smashed. Add an ounce of vodka, 3/4 ounce fennel liqueur, 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice, and half an ounce of simple syrup, along with ice. Shake until very well-chilled, then double-strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with lemon wheels and a cucumber slice.
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