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Anise-Flavored Liqueurs

By Cook's Illustrated Published November 2009

Recipe-specific liqueurs often serve their purpose and sit untouched on the shelf for years to come. We wondered if we could avoid that problem by substituting more popular spirits in some common recipes.

The anise-flavored liqueurs Pernod and pastis are often sipped in cafés in the south of France as well as used interchangeably in many classic recipes for Provençal soups and stews. But unless you do a lot of southern French cooking, a whole bottle of either one could spend years in your liquor cabinet. Would other, slightly more common anise-flavored liqueurs such as Schnapps, sambuca, and ouzo (which you might already have on hand) work just as well? We tried each in our Chicken Bouillabaisse recipe as well as a tomato-herb pan sauce to see if any could be swapped in as a suitable substitute. Tasters consistently condemned the sambuca and Schnapps for being far too sweet, but the ouzo proved itself an admirable stand-in, fooling tasters in both dishes. It can be used interchangeably with Pernod and pastis.

Licorice Likeness

Pastis and ouzo share a strong anise flavor and can be used interchangeably in recipes.