Das ist ein Unicum

“Das ist ein Unicum” or in English “This is an Unicum”. It was said by Emperor Joseph II when he received and drunk a small glass of it hence this is its name. Unicum was created by Dr. József Zwack the Royal Physician to the Habsburg Court in 1790.
Unicum is a Hungarian herbal bitters (herbal digestive liqueur), drunk as a digestive and apéritif.
Some of the herbs and spices are distilled, some are macerated, then blended together and aged in oak casks at the factory in Budapest for over 6 months. The dark amber hue is achieved with added caramel color. This bitter, bold taste herbal liqueur is mainly consumed as an aperitif before meals or a digestive after meals.

Unicum is a herbal digestif liqueur. The liqueur is today produced by Zwack according to a secret formula of more than forty herbs, and the drink is aged in oak casks. During the Socialist regime in Hungary, the Zwack family lived in exile in New York and Chicago, and during this time, Unicum in Hungary was produced using a different formula. Before moving to the US János Zwack had entrusted a family friend in Milan with the production of Unicum based on the original recipe. After the fall of communism, Péter Zwack returned to Hungary and resumed production of the original Unicum.

Unicum is regarded as one of the national drinks of Hungary.

Unicum was created by Dr. József Zwack, the Royal Physician to the Habsburg Court, for Emperor Joseph II in 1790. It was not until 1840 that his 20-year-old son, József Zwack founded J. Zwack & Co., the first Hungarian liqueur manufacturer. By the early 1900s, the Zwack company had become one of the leading distilleries in central Europe, producing over 200 liqueurs and spirits, exported all over the world.

In 1915, József’s son, Lajos, took over the factory and left it to his two sons, Béla and János, upon his death. During World War II, Budapest and the Zwack factory were completely destroyed. After the war, with the Communist regime, the factory was nationalised in 1948. The Zwack family fled the country. János Zwack with his son Péter, great grandson of József, was able to escape with the original Zwack recipe in his pocket. Bela Zwack remained behind to give the communist government a “fake” Zwack recipe and went on to become a regular factory worker.

Meanwhile, János and Péter migrated to the United States and after several months in Ellis Island’s refugee camp were granted US entry purely because they possessed the Zwack recipe. They later settled in the Bronx in 1949 when Péter was 22 years old. It was in the US that Péter learned all the ins and outs of the spirits industry.

The Unicum family

In 1988, just one year before the fall of Communism, Péter Zwack returned to Hungary and resumed production with the original Zwack formula. He repurchased his family business from the State in the summer of 1989, and by the spring of 1990, the original Zwack product was reintroduced to the Hungarian market. That same year, Péter was named Hungarian Ambassador to the United States.

The Zwack Company has since resumed its position as the leading distillery in eastern Europe. In 2008, Péter Zwack handed over the company’s leadership to the family’s 6th generation, his own children, Sándor and Izabella Zwack, to continue the family tradition. One of their first initiatives was to launch Zwack in the US, a landmark in the history of the company. In 2013, the Zwack Company has also launched Unicum and Unicum Plum in the US.

Unicum Plum

The production facility offers tours which include a tasting session of the three different varieties (Unicum, Unicum Next, and Millenicum). Though Millenicum was a special edition, it can still be found at a few retailers. It is somewhat stronger than the original, with a slightly sweeter aftertaste. Zwack Frissitők is a pineapple-based version of the drink. According to the manufacturer, the original Unicum is no longer distributed in the US, having been replaced by Unicum Next (a sweeter, thinner-bodied drink with a more prominent citrus flavour), re-branded as “Zwack”.
Alcohol 40,0% vol, Bottle size: 0,70 liter, Price: £22.99