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Looking for Hungarian Liquor - Zwack Unicum

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  • Christine Aug 11, 2004 09:56 PM
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I am looking for a Hungarian liquor called Zwack Unicum. I have called Binny's and a Hungarian grocer in Skokie to no avail. A Hungarian friend is having a housewarming and I thought this would be a great gift (along with a couple of bottles of Bull's Blood wine). No one seems to have heard of this liquor, although the online sources make it sound like the national liquor of Hungary. Please help!

I could order it online, but would prefer to get it locally if possible.

Thanks!

Christine

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  1. If anyone has a better recommendation for a Hungarian liquor and where to find it, I would be interested in that as well.

    Thanks!

    Christine

    1. In a thread a little ways down the board on German spirits, Eldon Kreider provided a link to what's available at Delicatessen Meyer in Lincoln Square. They list "Unicum" (under Bitters), along with many other German and non-German offerings. Hope this is what you are looking for.

      Delicatessen Meyer
      4750 N. Lincoln Ave.
      Chicago, IL 60625
      Phone: 773-561-3377

      Link: http://delicatessenmeyer.com/liquor.htm

      1. I am pretty sure I've seen Zwack at Cardinal Liquors. If you've never been there, it's a great place to go and ogle all the wacky liquors from all over the world. They also have a pretty good selection of more run of the mill wine, beer, etc. It's not where I would go if I was looking for a specific wine, though, or even a recommendation. Also note, they do carry Bull's Blood.

        Cardinal Liquors
        3501 N. Central
        Chicago 60634
        773.725.0900

        1. Unicum is available at Delicatessen Meyer, as stated above. I've purchased it there before. Yum.

          1. Try calling Avondale Liquor Store, 3018 N Milwaukee, phone 773-227-1793. In the heart of the old Polish commercial strip, they carry a lot of unusual Middle-European items. If they don't have what you want and you haven't found it elsewhere, ask them who carries Hungarian liquors. Avondale has been in business a while and probably knows who's got what.

            1. You don't want Unicom Bitters, but Zwack, which is a pleasant but powerful clear plum brandy, not unlike Slivovitz. It comes in a nifty, Z-shaped bottle (at least, the bit that I drank did), but is not particularly distinguished otherwise, that I can remember. Then again, the ability to remember while drinking plum brandy is limited.

              I don't remember where I got it, but the suggestions already posted (for Delicatessen Meyer, on Lincoln Avenue) and the routine but reliable answer "Try Sam's... they usually have whatever odd thing you want" both seem reasonable.

              ---dick

              1 Reply
              1. re: RheS
                p
                Peter Pawinski

                Just wanted to add a quick note.

                Zwack is a Hungarian company, not a clear plum brandy or bitter.

                Unicum, produced by Zwack, is my favorite bitter. It's an acquired taste, but it's wonderful stuff and acts as a great digestif. Also, try it sometime when you have an upset stomach. It works wonders.

                The plum brandy is Szilvapalinka. It can be quite good, but Croatia and Serbia produce better stuff, in my opinion, marketed as Slivovica or Rakija. Make sure you buy a liquor that's 100% plum brandy, not a mixture of plum essence and neutral spirits.

                In Hungary, the most popular clear brandies are pear (körtepálinka), apricot (barackpálinka) and, to a lesser extent, cherry (cseresznyepálinka). In particular, look for a product called "Vilmos körtepálinka." It's a specific type of pear brandy, and Zwack, among others, produce it.

                Hungary grows excellent apricots, so check that brandy out too if you get a chance.

                Those are pretty much the local liqueurs and spirits most Hungarians drink.

                Almost liqueur-like is the Hungarian Tokaji/Tokay Aszú wine. It's a very sweet dessert wine, with a taste of honey, raisins, and muscat. It tends to be a bit on the expensive side, but well worth it. Tokaji Aszú comes in numbers from 3-6. The number refers to how many buckets of grapes with the nobel rot have been added to the process. The higher the number, the sweeter and better the Tokaji. I would not recommend buying anything less than a 5.

                If you REALLY have some extra cash, the most fabled Tokaji is Tokaji Aszú Eszencia. Various vineyards make it, and it's expensive (over $100) no matter where you get it. It's made from the first-press of the noble rot grapes and these grapes are pressed by their own weight. It is extremely sweet and takes a long time to ferment.

                You can find Tokaji at Sam's Wine & Spirits.