A strange phrase, the one about the dove of anise. Some of you will remember the name “Anís la paloma”. Popular wisdom is sometimes mixed with fantastic theories that explain worldly mysteries.
On one occasion someone explained to me the how and why of the cloudy appearance when mixing anise and water. Aniseed drinks are very typical throughout the Mediterranean, where at the same time it is very common that water from natural sources contains a lot of lime.
He told me that anise was very good at removing lime from water. To prove it, he described how pouring cold water into a glass with aniseed (liquor) formed a white cloud. He said to me, “Do you see you how the lime dissolved in the water precipitates on contact with anise, clouding the water?
The dove of anise
This effect, which gave name to many aniseed-flavored drinks by inspiring the shape of a white dove, is NOT due to the precipitation of lime.
Plants such as fennel and anise contain an organic compound called anethole (known as anise oil), which is responsible for this reaction. Anethole is soluble in alcohol, but is not soluble in water at temperatures below 17ºC. Therefore, when cold water is poured into a glass of aniseed, what happens is that the anethole turns in tiny droplets of this compound, giving the liquor a milky appearance. The purer the anise oil content, the whiter the appearance.
Mallorcan herbs also contain anise, so they also have that effect. However, having the yellow-green color, which gives it the diversity of aromatic plants, you do not appreciate the white color, but seems to be cloudy.
The good thing about this compound of sweet taste and characteristic smell of anise, present in many essential oils, are its properties:
- Helps prevent intestinal and muscular contractions and their consequence (intestinal pain)
- Reduces the generation of gases in the digestive tract
- Decreases the chance of infection
- It’s expectorant
- Facilitates digestion
- Relieves phlegm secretion
- Stimulates the secretion of breast milk…
So, now, when you have a good sip of aniseed, or aniseed drink like the herbs of Mallorca, as well as enjoying its pleasant taste and refreshing effect, you’ll know the reasons why it feels so good!