Most people probably think of Rioja or Sangria when considering the beverages of Spain, but I am on a mission to introduce the world to some of its lesser-known delicious drinks: from the incredibly affordable sparkling cava to the now-trendy (but super old school) vermut, the drink options in Spain are classic, yet exciting.

One of the more recent finds is the after-dinner drink Anis del Mono. I’m not a huge fan of anise-flavored drinks, like Sambuca or Fernet or Pastis, but the dulce Anis del Mono (they also make a seco) is special: sugary, sweet, with a licorice flavor that is neither bitter nor overpowering. It’s tasty stuff, my friends. And I almost always crave it after a delicious meal.

Anis del Mono was founded in 1870 in the beach town of Badalona, which is a quick train ride outside of Barcelona. There are many theories as to the name “Monkey Anise,” including a story that a pet monkey (shipped from the Americas, where the founding brothers had businesses) lived at the factory; another holds that the name and label (a monkey with a man’s face) is an ode to Darwin: the man on the label resembles Darwin himself and, according to some, the brothers chose this name to illustrate how “evolved” their brand of drink was. The third theory claims that the brothers were actually anti-evolutionists, and created the monkey/man as a caricature of Darwin.

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The classic (and rather strange!) Anis del Mono label.

The flavor profile of Anis del Mono is as fascinating as its etymological myths. The liquor is made from filtered water, refined sugar, and alcohol, and is distilled in copper stills from the 19th century. The sweet, syrupy drink is perfect as a digestivo, and also goes well with the tasty cakes of Catalunya (particularly the ones with pine nuts, like the Coca de Llavaneres and Sant Joan cakes). A visit to the factory is a fun and unique day trip while visiting Barcelona; make sure to also check out the hilarious statue of the Anis del Mono monkey/man, which is located on the beach.

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Behind the statue is the Anis del Mono factory. And in front? The beautiful beaches of Catalunya. 🙂

If you can’t make it out to Badalona, you can grab a bottle of Anis del Mono for about 7 euros at any grocery or convenience store. Pay close attention to the bottle, which has sides etched in a diamond pattern. A Catalan friend of mine said that as a child, he and his friends would use the empty bottles as “musical instruments” by running a stick along the side of the bottle. Que chulo.

Photos are from Anis del Mono via Facebook.