Anise or Pimpinella anisum is a flowering plant that is native to the Mediterranean and Southwest Asia. This is a small flowering plant that grows to about three feet tall. Anise is also known as anis. This plant bears white flowers in umbels and fruits are dry and oblong. This plant is primarily used as food plant from ancient times and was used to flavor many ancient cuisines.
Anise grows in fertile and well-drained soil; seeds are generally sown in spring. The plant has tap roots and is closely related to the carrot family. The plant is being used as a flavoring agent since ancient times. The Arabic name is anysum which is believed to have been derived from the Greek word anison. It is perhaps the oldest spice known both for its culinary and medicinal properties. Egyptologists claim that there is evidence to suggest that anise was used by ancient Egyptians as far back as 1500 B.C. The Romans used anise to aid digestion, anise spiced cakes were eaten by Romans after heavy meals to aid digestion.
Anise is aromatic and sweet; it contains liquorice like substance and is generally used in the preparation of confectioneries as well as breads. It is also used to flavor food, fish, soups, poultry, and vegetable dishes. Several alcoholic beverages also contain anise the more famous include pastis, Ricard, and Pernod. The Turks use anise to make their alcoholic beverage Raki and the Arabs use anise to make arak. Indians use anise mainly as a digestive after heavy meals.
Anise is one of the many herbs used in the preparation of the legendary nineteenth century liquor ‘absinthe’. Its sweet aromatic flavor reduces the bitterness of wormwood and gives absinthe a distinct taste. Anise also plays an important part in the louche effect when water is added to absinthe.
Anise is known to contain a substance called anethole. Anethole is an aromatic compound and is also found in fennel, star anise, and anise myrtle. Anethole is believed to be many times sweeter than sugar and is pleasant to taste even in higher concentrations. At room temperature anethole is in a crystalline form and melts at 21°C. Chemically anethole is close to estragole that is found in basil and tarragon. Anethole is mildly toxic if consumed in large quantity. Anise is believed to be a reliable cure for insomnia and like wormwood stimulates appetite.
Anise is an essential herb used in the preparation of absinthe and is accorded an important place in the holy trinity of herbs that define absinthe. Wormwood and fennel are the other two herbs that are a part of the holy trinity. It is these three herbs that give absinthe its distinct taste and cause its unique effects.
Absinthe has made a terrific comeback after being banned by most countries for almost a century. Absinthe is now legalized in Europe. However, the United States continues to ban the production and sale of absinthe. Possession and consumption of absinthe is not a crime and US citizens can buy absinthe online from non-US producers. The easiest way US citizens can have access to absinthe is to make their very own absinthe at home using genuine absinthe essence and absinthe kits. 20ml of high quality genuine absinthe essence is mixed in 730ml of vodka or any other neutral spirit to make 750ml of high quality absinthe at home.
There are several online stores that sell absinthe kits and essences. However, absinthekit.com is considered the most reliable and trusted name in this industry.