Ouzo stars on the American stage

Rinse and raise your glass with American ouzo

Poor absinthe.

First it was banned from the States due to its purported hallucinogenic effects. Now it's too frequently used in cocktails as a mere "rinse." It's a shame, but understandable: The potent anise-flavored elixir is too strong to warrant prime billing.

Still, we've found an anise-flavored concoction that is smooth enough to take on a larger role: Old Sugar Distillery's Americanaki Ouzo ($34 for 750 ml).

That's right: Old Sugar's ouzo is a domestic take on the Greek staple, and the stateside relocation has treated it well. Old Sugar distiller and founder Nathan Greenawalt, who is of Greek descent, created a mellow iteration of his relations' favorite libation. First, he infuses a mash of locally harvested beet sugar with star anise and aniseed. The flavors are reinforced in the copper still: The first distillation occurs with seed anise; then he distills a second time with star anise.

The result is a walloping 90-proof spirit in which the heat is checked by spicy sweetness.

You can use it for a rinse. (Try it in place of absinthe in a classic Sazerac.) But we recommend giving it a primary role in this recipe, an adaptation of a drink that Greenawalt serves at the distillery.