Anise and Caraway Alcohols

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

These spirits get their dominant flavor from the seeds of plants in the carrot family, and may be either sweet or dry. Anise is especially popular; there are French, Greek, Turkish, and Lebanese versions among others (pernod and anisette, ouzo, raki, araq). Caraway seeds flavor dry Scandinavian aquavits and the sweet German Kümmel. When clear anise alcohols are diluted with clear liquid water or ice cubes that melt, the mixture becomes surprisingly cloudy. This is because the aromatic terpene molecules are insoluble in water, and soluble in alcohol only when the alcohol is highly concentrated. As the alcohol becomes diluted, the terpenes separate from the continuous liquid into little water-avoiding droplets, and these scatter light like the fat globules in milk.