The digestif Unicum is either a local treasure or horror, depending on your taste. Despite the varied reactions it provokes, the Hungarian brand is going strong some twenty-five years after being rejuvenated by its founder, the late Péter Zwack. Not resting on its laurels, Unicum has expanded its brand to include Unicum Next, which, not unlike Unicum, is not to everybody’s liking. More pleasing to the palate – and a real winning digestif – is the recently released third member to the Unicum family: Unicum Szilva. Not unlike the original Unicum, Szilva uses over 40 herbs in its recipe, and is barrel-matured for half a year.
But don’t expect a move towards the Jagermeister crowd. Instead of going with the cloying sweetness of Next, the Szilva remains closer to the agrarian flavor of the original Unicum, only tarted up with a healthy dose of plum flavor. There is something elegant and matronly at work in its deep notes: as if your Hungarian grandmother had spiked her plum jam with pálinka. I recommend drinking it chilled, and in very old beveled-crystal aperitif glasses, like Carolyn, Gábor, and I did to toast the inception of The Hungary Dish. It is a great celebration drink – and like the late Peter Zwack, a class act. Drinking in Budapest just got a little sweeter.