Unicum is a national institution in Hungary, and has a long history that in some ways mirrors the history of modern Hungary itself. The story of Unicum is the story of the Zwack family, who has owned the company since the end of the 18th century (except for the 40 year period when it was nationalized by the Communists). Dr. Zwack, a physician for the Imperial Court of the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy, is credited with creating the drink to alleviate the royal family's digestion problems. But it didn't take long for the drink to take hold on the rest of the country. The Zwack family--headed by Peter Zwack--runs the company today--which also produces high-end palinka, wine, and other types of liquor. So, what is Unicum? It's a thick, black, goopy concoction, made from more than 40 herbs and spices. The exact composition is a carefully guarded family secret which was stored in a safe deposit box in New York during the Communist era. Part of the mixture is macerated for thirty days in water, while the other part is distilled. Then, in a process that has remained almost unchanged for more than 200 years, both are blended and aged in oak casks for six months.

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