The Hungarian Unicum Liqueur – Zwack Museum and Visitors’ Centre
Dr. Zwack! Das ist ein Unicum! – declared Joseph II, having tasted the unique drink made for him by his royal physician. However, it took 50 years till the drink became available for the public, when in 1840 Joseph Zwack founded the first factory in the Moroccan Court, today Erzsébet Square in Budapest. The factory was growing so quickly that it soon moved to Two Saracens then to Üllői Street, and finally it occupied its present location at 26 Soroksári Street in 1892.
This is the place for Zwack Museum and Visitors’ Centre as well, displaying the history and the past of the family and the herb liqueur, where visitors can follow a more than 225 year old story on exclusive recordings. With the help of family relics, documents and photographs exhibited in the museum you can experience not only the family’s adventurous past from the beginning until the present day, but also the milestones of Hungarian history. The museum contains one of the richest miniature bottle collections in Europe, including some rare specialties.
The exceptional distillery standing in the middle of the factory area was reconstructed based on original photographs, and depicts the enchanting 19th century atmosphere of the liqueur factory. In the building, often called the “Heart of Unicum” distillation machines and enormous ceramic barrels used for extraction of herbs and spices can be seen, as well as fragrant herbs that may be the ingredients of Unicum’s secret recipe.
Even today Unicum is made here from the extract and distillate of more than 40 kinds of herbs and spices which come from 5 continents, the majority from the Carpathian basin, but precious ingredients are also imported from Morocco, China, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Nigeria, the Americas and Australia. These exotic herbs are measured by hand to this day and some special ingredients are personally weighed out by a family member, currently by Anne Zwack (mother of Sandor and Izabella).
There are two ways to extract the flavour and the fragrance from the herbs: maceration and distillation. The ingredients of most herb liqueurs are only macerated in alcohol, but in the case of Unicum about half of the herbs is macerated, the other half is distilled and in some cases the same herb undergoes both the procedure of maceration and distillation. During maceration, the herbs are immersed in high quality corn alcohol, a process which gives the taste of Unicum its intensity and rich variety.
Some herbs release their fragrance better through distillation. The equipment used in this process has essentially remained the same since Unicum was invented. It is the distillation process which gives Unicum its inimitable bouquet.
The macerated and distilled herbs are then blended together in a traditional wooden tank. To ensure that Unicum is consistent in quality, the Master Distiller together with a Tasting Committee, headed by a member of the Zwack family, frequently taste the Unicum from the barrels during the process.
Ageing in oak casks confers on Unicum the final complexities in taste and bouquet. Unicum has been aged in oak ever since it was invented in 1790.
Though many people may not know, the Unicum has been produced at the Soroksári Street factory even nowadays. An exciting closing part of the programme is a guided tour in the cellar, the territory of which is 2500 m2. Visitors can taste the original Unicum and Unicum Plum, the latest flavour aged on dried plums, unforgettable Zwack liqueurs on tap right from one of the 500 oak casks.
1095 Budapest, Dandár str. 1.
Tel.: +36 1 476 2383