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Anís, as its name suggests, is a Spanish liquor made from the seeds of the plant of the aniseed tree, also known as la Pimpinella anisum. Those of you who study Spanish might know that this tree is called 'anís' in Spanish. However, this strong Spanish spirit is also made with other ingredients such as fennel and illicium, as well as other types of fruits and seeds which contain anethole.

The Ingredients

Of course, Anís is the main ingredient in this Spanish spirit, and it comes from the plant known by the same name. The word actually comes from Ancient Greek and was frequently used during the classical period, even though the plant itself is actually from Asia. We know that aniseed was grown by the Egyptians around 2000 B.C. however the distillation of this plant wasn't in common practise until the 16th century.

Illicium, also known as star aniseed, is another plant which is a type of magnolia tree that originates from China which also has similarly flavoured seeds to those of aniseed. Fennel is another plant which has a similar flavour to that of aniseed, so much so that it is permitted by law to be called aniseed.

There are several ways that the anís spirit can be produced. One way is to distil the ingredients in an anisette wine while another way sees the aniseed being mashed up before being distilled in another spirit. In Spain, they used to add aniseed oil to other spirits to make it, however this custom has begun to become rarer and rarer. Now it is much more common just to produce a pure alcohol from the seeds.

As we mentioned earlier, many aniseed drinks are also made using a variety of other ingredients, including different fruits and seeds. However, in order for the spirit to be labelled as true 'anís', the drink can only be made with green aniseed, star aniseed and fennel. These rules were implemented by the European Union.

The spirit is not exclusively made in Spain however as there are many different varieties from different regions and countries. This wide production range has also led to a number of different names for this alcoholic drink being created. In Spain, the drink is commonly known as 'anís' or sometimes as 'Chinchón', while in other parts of the country you can hear the word 'Cazalla' - a name which is also used in certain Arabic countries. If you were to visit Latin America, especially Venezuela, you might hear the word 'Aguardiente' which also refers to this aniseed spirit.

The main Spanish variety of anís is called Chinchón which is made in a small town called by the same name, close to the capital city of Madrid. The town of Chinchón has been making the spirit since 1777 and it is widely believed that this town was the main supplier of the spirit to the Royal Court. The anís spirit produced here has an alcoholic content of 74%, making it the strongest drink to be produced in Spain. The drink is only allowed to be produced due to its historical background.

However, the anís of Chinchón is very dry and there are therefore other types of the spirit as well. There is another dry version of the drink which is called 'La Asturiana' which has an alcohol content of 48%, as well as the sweet version which is called 'El Mono', containing 38% alcohol.


Many people believe that the spirit is extremely good for your health. When it first began to be consumed, anís was often drunk to help the digestive system and to help balance the body. However, with a very high alcohol percentage this is definitely not the case and the spirit is notorious for giving people a strong hangover, especially if you drink a lot of it. Today, the aniseed spirit is one of the most preferred drinks for ending a meal.

The Spanish spirit can be quite dry and so the drink is often mixed with water, however this makes the clear liquid turn cloudy. Other people mix it with other drinks, however this is not advised. This drink is extremely strong, especially the traditional version from Chinchón, and mixing the drink with any other spirit is unadvisable!

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