Zwack liqueur

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Zwack bottle.jpg
Type Digestif
Manufacturer Unicum Zwack plc
Distributor PMA Canada
Country of origin Budapest, Hungary
Introduced 1790
Alcohol by volume 40%
Proof 80

Zwack is a Hungarian company that makes among other liqueurs and spirits an 80 proof (40% alcohol) herbal liqueur known as Unicum with a secret blend of more than forty different herbs and spices. It is known as the National Shot of Hungary,[1] is produced by Zwack, plc, in Budapest, Hungary. Zwack is also famous for its kosher fruit brandy, especially Zwack kosher plum brandy.


Unicum was created by Dr. József Zwack, the Royal Physician to the Habsburg Court, for Emperor Joseph II in 1790.[citation needed]. 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 nationalized 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. Béla 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.

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.[2]

The Zwack Company has since resumed its position as the leading distillery in Central Europe. In 2008, Péter Zwack handed over the company’s leadership to the family’s 6th generation, his own children, Sandor 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 is made from a blend of more than 40 different herbs and spices. Some of the herbs and spices are distilled, some are macerated, then blended together and aged in oak casks at the factory in Kecskemét 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 digestif after meals. The company also produces a slightly different version of the liqueur known as Unicum next, it is made from the same recipe and shares Unicum’s bold character but is slightly less bitter and leaves a hint of citrus finish on the palate.

Other Zwack products[edit]

Vilmos product family[edit]

Vilmos is a product range of spirit drinks made by mixing pear pálinka, neutral spirits and added flavorings with or without the addition of honey. There's also a genuine pear pálinka in the range, aged 3 years.

St. Hubertus product family[edit]

St. Hubertus is a traditional, herbal liqueur, St. Hubertus 33 gets its name from the 33 different herbs used to make this drink and because it is 33% alcohol. St. Hubertus 33 is marketed more towards younger people, because of its lighter flavor.

Hírös Kecskeméti product family[edit]

This product family consists of real palinkas and some spirits that although are made 100% from distilled fruit, they are sweetened with honey, thus they cannot be sold under the label of palinka, so they are marketed under the Hírös Kecsckeméti label. These are a lighter, sweeter, palinka based liqueur.

Kalinka product family[edit]

Contains one vodka and two vodka based alcoholic beverages. Kalinka Samovar is a 30% drink flavored with honey and tea. Carbonated Kalinka, or "Fény" is a flavored, 21% drink with carbon-dioxide added.


This product family was based on Fütyülős Barack, a spirit drink made by mixing apricot pálinka, neutral spirits and flavorings. The range initially has been broadened with six different fruit liqueurs produced alike, but mellowed with honey. Finally, it was completed with six different kinds of pure pálinka.

Zwack Sándor Nemes Pálinka Család[edit]

The noble palinka family consisting of genuine fruit palinkas.


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Chronicle" by Susan Heller Anderson, The New York Times, 15 June 1990

External links[edit]