The enigmatic monkey man who has graced the label of one of Spain’s most famous drinks for 150 years may wish to pour himself a decent measure and raise his glass to the nation’s home-bakers.
Lockdowns and other restrictions mean sales of spirits in bars and restaurants have fallen by 42.7% in 2020 as Spaniards have been forced to live a less convivial life.
But retail sales of Anís del Mono, the aniseed liqueur known for its distinctive simian symbol and diamond-patterned bottle, have increased by almost 17%.
The rise, however, appears to have little to do with those gentlemen of a certain age who favour anís as their daily heart-starter.
“We think it’s very probably partly due to the increase in baking,” said Laura Díaz, the brand manager for Anís del Mono at the Osborne drinks group.
“A lot of people spent lockdown making pastries and desserts, which is why we saw shortages of flour and yeast. But Holy Week also fell in lockdown, and in Spain a lot of traditional Holy Week cakes and pastries, like rosquillas [or Easter donuts], are made with anís.”
Figures from Spain’s food and agriculture ministry show that retail sales of alcohol in the second week of April, when the country was in lockdown, were up 85% on the same period in 2019. Beers sales rose by 86.5%, wine by 73.4% and spirits by 93.4%
Díaz acknowledged that many anís fans are “older guys … who might have it with coffee, or water, or with juice or on its own”, but said it was also popular with bakers, and increasingly with mixologists.
“It’s a smell people tend to associate with Christmas and it reminds us of our grandparents,” she said. “But we’re also seeing a rise in people using it in cocktails. Cocktail making is more common elsewhere in Europe, but we’re seeing it grow here now with all the gastronomic trends. Anís del Mono is a local, traditional product.”
Despite its traditional image, a bottle of Anís del Mono featured in the video for Rosalía’s 2018 song Pienso en tu Mirá, and before that in paintings by Pablo Picasso and Juan Gris.
The bottle is said to have been inspired by the perfume bottles the drink’s creator, Vicente Bosch, saw in Paris while looking for a present for his wife. Its monkey man is reputed to be a nod to Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution.