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Location: Marvin, 2007 14th St. NW

Bartender response: “Anise?”

What we got: A Secret Garden, with gin, absinthe, and a cucumber garnish on the rocks

Price: $12

How it tasted: This was a wallop of a drink, though it got progressively smoother with each sip. The absinthe nicely fulfilled our anise requirement and added complexity to the gin.

Improv points (1-5): 3. The Secret Garden can be found on Marvin’s cocktail menu, but it’s a solid combo of two notoriously strong liquors.

Location: Darlington House, 1610 20th St. NW

Bartender response: “Anise?”

What we got: Sambuca with coffee beans on the rocks

Price: $10

How it tasted: Like sambuca with coffee beans on the rocks. That is to say, licorice-y with a faint hint of java.

Improv points (1-5): 1. Though we very much enjoyed sipping the thick, syrupy liqueur—and, hey, thanks for the liberal pour!—this preparation is a traditional go-to. The wow factor is woefully low.

Location: Tabard Inn, 1739 N St. NW

Response: “Do you want what men drink in France?”

What I Got: Pastis de Marseille, plus spring water.

Price: $7

How it tasted: Pastis and water turns into a milky concoction that tastes exactly like black licorice on ice—delicious if you like licorice, which we do.

Improv points (1-5): 3. We’re having some déjà vu here with the anise-flavor-on-ice theme. But pastis is a more eclectic choice than, say, sambuca. And serving this manly libation to a woman takes cojones, or whatever the French equivalent is.