unicum hungary

Zwack Unicum (Hungary) 1790

Zwack Unicum is a classic bitter from Hungary. Unlike many alcohol drinks it has an accurate and proven chronology . In 1790 physician of Imperial Household doctor Zwack suggested a self-made bitter to Austrian Grand Dike as a digestive. «Das ist ein Unikum!» («It’s unique!») — Joseph II cried, having tasted a miracle elixir. This is how the drink derived its name.

In 1840 in Pest (a separate city before union into Budapest) the Zwack family founded a distilling factory and launched production of liqueurs, bitters and fruit distillates. After formation of Austria-Hungary the family became the sole supplier to the Imperial and Royal Household.  Zwack produce was exported to other countries including the USA. By the beginПing of World War I Zwack Company was the largest producer of alcohol drinks in the Central and Eastern Europe and supplied to the market over 200 item names. Though Unicum has always been the leader of the family and was already considered a national Hungarian drink. Zwack factory was completely bombed out during World War II, but after the war it was rebuilt and equipped with the most recent tools.   Production had been going on until 1948 when it was nationalized by the Communist Government. And the family immigrated. The new power took on management and kept on producing Unicum without technical skills and original formula which had always been kept secret by the family.  Janos Zwack won a suit filed in the USA against Hungarian Government for illegal use of manufacturer’s brand. The factory in Budapest could not export Unicum and other drinks under Zwack trademark to the West any longer.  Representative of the fourth generation of the family Piter Zwack came back to Hungary at the end of the 80’s and took over management of the factory.  Thus, from 1990 the original Zwack Unicum produced according to the original formula was back to the market. The exact formula is kept low key by the family, nevertheless it is known that Unicum contains over 40 various floral components and each of them is accurate within a gram. One portion of herbs and spices is macerated in neutral alcohol for a small time and thereafter distillation is carried out, that requires great skill and patience to maintain a sure aroma and subtle flavor development.  The other part of components is macerated in alcohol during thirty days adding a deep red-brown robe and its part of flavors to the drink. Then both portions are mixed up and kept in oak barrels for six months to mature. End drink goes on sale in traditional spherical dark-green glass bottles.

Unicum strength is 42% vol.  Piter Zwack says that even though the first sip goes like a shot it is always necessary to have the second sip. After that the taste of Unicum fascinates and it becomes clear that this drink cannot be substituted. Having just tasted it once, the person will always take nothing but Unicum.

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