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Unicum vs. Zwack


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#1 TAPrice

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Posted 20 February 2010 - 01:22 PM

I've got a bottle of Unicum by Zwack. Love the stuff. Makes Fernet Branca taste like Coca-Cola.

My understanding was that the bottle labeled Zwack was a sweeter version for the American market, which is also known as Unicum Next outside the U.S.

Recently I've seen a new bottle on the liquor store shelves labeled Zwack (looks the same, but doesn't say Unicum).

1) How can I identify the two products?

2) Is the sweeter Zwack or Unicum Next version worth owning?

3) Is the stronger, original Unicum still distributed in the U.S. (My bottle was old and dusty).
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#2 QbanCrackr

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Posted 20 February 2010 - 07:41 PM

I originally opened this thread when i read Zwack, thinking it was Kwak (the beer)...and it refreshed my mind that i've got that same bottle at home but labeled Unicum and i don't even have the slightest idea what it is! :unsure:
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#3 EvergreenDan

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Posted 20 February 2010 - 07:43 PM

The US Zwack Liqueur (apparently known a Unicum Next elswewhere in the world) clearly has the word Liqueur on the bottom of the bottle and Zwack at the top. It does not say Unicum Next at all. This is what I have.

Unicum is apparently distributed in the US, according to the Wikipedia article.

The Zwack Liqueur is very mild -- sweet, pleasant, very slightly bitter. I think you have the real deal, which I haven't found yet.
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#4 MikeHartnett

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Posted 21 February 2010 - 01:17 PM

3) Is the stronger, original Unicum still distributed in the U.S. (My bottle was old and dusty).


I don't have an exact answer to your question, but I am under the impression that if it is still distributed in the U.S., then it is not being distributed in Louisiana. The guys at Cure said that Vieux Carre had the last few bottles, and I picked up one of those last few. This was probably close to a year ago, so the situation may very well have changed, but that was where it stood then.

#5 Nayan Gowda

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Posted 21 February 2010 - 03:26 PM

Email Zwack. They are very responsive to requests for information about their products.
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#6 Chris Amirault

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Posted 21 February 2010 - 03:30 PM

Any chance we can see some photos of what we're looking for?
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#7 TAPrice

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Posted 21 February 2010 - 08:08 PM

The image on this page exactly matches what's on my shelf. The plastic top must be rare or very old. Almost no images of it could be found:

Drink Swap

I'll go out and pick up some Zwack (i.e. Unicum Next). Can't wait to compare. One can never have too many digestif bitters.

Edit: I emailed Zwack for more info.

Edited by TAPrice, 21 February 2010 - 08:13 PM.

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#8 thirtyoneknots

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Posted 21 February 2010 - 10:20 PM

At a launch party for this stuff about a year ago I found a relatively high-up guy on the food chain and cornered him with some hard questions. Long story short, this is, for all intents and purposes, Unicum now. If the original is made anymore, it is not going to be imported to the US. The stuff was basically reformulated and rebranded to compete with Jagermeister, essentially made much sweeter and less bitter. I still think it is pretty interesting, but the marketing angle made me want to gag. There was some load of hooey about how this is actually the original formula and the other was the commie formula, but I'm not buying.


edit: grammar

Edited by thirtyoneknots, 21 February 2010 - 10:20 PM.

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#9 eas

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Posted 22 February 2010 - 07:16 AM

The branding and formulation change was done in tandem with a partnership with Diageo USA. Indeed the new product, designed for the US market, is sweeter and less bitter than Unicum. Given the longstanding popularity of Unicum in the home market, I'd be very surprised if the home market "Unicum" product has changed formulation for risk of losing a loyal market.

#10 TAPrice

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Posted 22 February 2010 - 07:55 AM

The branding and formulation change was done in tandem with a partnership with Diageo USA. Indeed the new product, designed for the US market, is sweeter and less bitter than Unicum. Given the longstanding popularity of Unicum in the home market, I'd be very surprised if the home market "Unicum" product has changed formulation for risk of losing a loyal market.


Damn Diageo. Can we make a list of their sins against good spirits?
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#11 TAPrice

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Posted 23 February 2010 - 08:02 AM

Got a reply from a Mr. Zsinkó Bálint at Zwack (how great a name is that), which answers a few questions:

Dear Todd,

Yes, Zwack Liqueur is ditributed in the US market by Diageo, it is
available in Louisiana.

Unicum is a bitter, made of herbs, but it is not the same like Zwack
Liqueur.

Zwack Ligueur is a semi -bitter which also made of herbs but the ratio
of components is different therefor it is much sweeter and has lower
alcohol content.

"Unicum Next" is the same like "Zwack Ligueur". We use Unicum Next as a
brand name for internal business but call the product Zwack Liqueur all
around the world (except Hungary).

It is because of marketing issues, Zwack is a wellknown name in Hungary
so we do not have to promote it in our new line extension (Unicum
Next).It is more important to make it clear that it belongs to the main
brand (Unicum).

But in abroad we would like to make a company image. For that reason
we use Zwack Liqueur. The other point is that we have no considerable
Unicum sales in the US so Unicum Next would not carry any meaning to the
constumers.

"Zwack" is the name of our company which comes from the family name of
our major owner Mr.Peter Zwack. His grand-grand father was the inventor
of this liquid.

Best regards,
Balint


Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"


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#12 EvergreenDan

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Posted 23 February 2010 - 09:35 AM

Even though he doesn't address the issue of Diageo importing Unicum, it looks discouraging from Diageo's website. First, Zwack isn't even listed in their brands. Second, in a press release, they refer only to "Zwack Herbal Liqueur" in their product listing.

The Zwack Liqueur is somewhat interesting. However, it is burdened with so much sugar and so little bitter that I've found it challenging.

I would be interested in hearing ideas involving Zwack Liqueur, since that's what we have in the US.

I tried equal parts Rye, Zwack Liqueur, and Amaro Lucano. Delicous. I also tried it with Jack Daniels Black and it was obviously sweeter -- a bit like a bitter Bourbon Manhattan.

I also liked equal parts Kirshwasser, Zwack Liqueur, and Campari. Next time, I may add a bit of lemon to this, in juice, peel, or bitters form.
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#13 Nayan Gowda

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Posted 23 February 2010 - 12:04 PM

Got a reply from a Mr. Zsinkó Bálint at Zwack (how great a name is that), which answers a few questions:

Told you they were responsive! :cool:
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#14 brinza

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Posted 27 February 2010 - 11:42 AM

Pennsylvania began selling Zwack last year. It's not bad, but it's a pity that Unicum isn't imported. Zwack does possess similarities to Jagermeister, but I'd say the flavor is closer to Averna, though perhaps a bit sweeter.

TAPrice, would you say that Unicum compares to Killepitsch in any way?

Now I'm off to try that Kirsch/Zwack/Campari concoction!
Mike

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#15 TAPrice

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Posted 27 February 2010 - 01:19 PM

TAPrice, would you say that Unicum compares to Killepitsch in any way?


Never tried Killeptisch, so I can't say.
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#16 brinza

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Posted 27 February 2010 - 02:17 PM

I also liked equal parts Kirshwasser, Zwack Liqueur, and Campari. Next time, I may add a bit of lemon to this, in juice, peel, or bitters form.

Sipping this right now. OMG is this good. How did you ever come up with that? I haven't tried any of your other augmentations either, but I plan to. I stirred and strained. Is that how you make it, or do you have it on the rocks?
Mike

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#17 EvergreenDan

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Posted 27 February 2010 - 04:37 PM

How did you ever come up with that?

Is that how you make it, or do you have it on the rocks?

:wub: :blush:
I guess it needs a name. How about Potomac?

I get cherry sorts of flavors from the Zwack. Sugar is the enemy. So the Kirschwasser reinforces the cherry / berry flavor of the Zwack without adding sugar, and adds alcohol. Life is better is complex bitter undertones, and Campari loves fruit flavors, and helps make up for the lameness of the bitter in the Zwack Liqueur, without adding the spice that most other amari would. I was going for bright, fresh flavors. I think a touch of lemon juice would balance the remaining sugar.

I follow the usual advice to stir when only clear ingredients are involved. However, (flame suit on) at home I prefer most drinks on the rocks because:

1) My home ice is at -9F. There isn't much shaker melting compared to wet bar ice. This results in up drinks that start out a bit too undiluted. That said, my taste runs toward strong drinks and flavors. I've been known to sip 138 proof Absinthe neat, for example.
2) If I make it on the rocks, and strain it over fresh -9F ice in the glass, it takes a long time before the drink gets watery.
3) I like my drinks really cold. Between warm but strong versus cold but diluted, I prefer the latter.

Edited by EvergreenDan, 27 February 2010 - 05:01 PM.

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#18 tikibars

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Posted 04 September 2010 - 10:31 PM


TAPrice, would you say that Unicum compares to Killepitsch in any way?


Never tried Killeptisch, so I can't say.



Hmmm.... jusdt came back from Germany with a bottle each of Killepitsch, Unicum, and a locally-made Kummel.

Just looked up this thread because I could have sworn there were some Unicum recipes in the Savoy book, but I can't find 'em.

Anyway, stand by for a fresh Killepitsch vs Unicum posting!
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#19 EvergreenDan

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Posted 05 September 2010 - 06:28 AM

This forum needs a green "envy" emoticon.
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#20 tikibars

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 04:05 PM

Unicum1.jpg
Unicum2.jpg

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  • Unicum1.jpg

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#21 newbie21

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Posted 04 November 2010 - 09:31 AM

We have both in the freezer, sadly with woefully little left in each.

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Edited by newbie21, 04 November 2010 - 09:32 AM.


#22 KD1191

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Posted 04 November 2010 - 09:53 AM

We have both in the freezer, sadly with woefully little left in each.

I'm shocked, SHOCKED to find there is Cuban rum in that bar.
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#23 newbie21

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Posted 04 November 2010 - 10:38 AM


We have both in the freezer, sadly with woefully little left in each.

I'm shocked, SHOCKED to find there is Cuban rum in that bar.

Ha!!! Ya, we just replenished from Puerto Vallarta a couple of weeks ago! Yummm.

#24 tikibars

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 09:58 PM

Finally got to opening the Unicum that I brought back from Munich.
Whomever said that Unicum makes Fernet taste like coca-cola wasn't kidding.
This stuff is *really* bitter.
I wouldn't advise getting near this stuff unless you've already graduated through Campari and Cynar to Fernet Branca and are ready for the next step on this long bitter road.
Otherwise, you're not going to be able to handle it.

And I swear, the next closest thing in my own experience is freakin' Malort!
(except the Uni tastes a whole lot better).
Unicum: Malort for people not currently drinking on a dare.
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#25 tikibars

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Posted 28 November 2010 - 09:58 PM

...meanwhile Killepitsch is more in the Jaegermesiter family (for easy reference).

The owner of Beckets Kopf (a great bar in Berlin) was telling me that there are some 180 small towns in Bavaria (southern Germany) who each make their own unique herbal liqueur.

To use a metaphor: from a manufacturing and distribution perspective, Jaeger is the mass-produced one, equivalent (in, say, beer terms) to PBR. Most of the others are the equivalent of small regional microbrews. Killepitsch falls somewhere in between, perhaps the equivalent of a nationally-distributed regional beer, like, I dunno, Flat Tire or something.

I tried some of the smaller local ones when I was in Bavaria, but was only able to procure Killepitsch for the trip home.
Some of the local ones were quite interesting.
The Killepitsch is a damned bit better than Jaeger, but has a flavor profile in the same ballpark.
Smoother, slightly more complex.
Sweet on the tip of the tongue, but bitter in the throat.
It is worth having brought home as a souvenir of my Bavarian adventures, but ultimately it is too close to Jaeger for my tastes: it reminds me more of 1991 college parties than of Beckets Kopf, Lebensstern, Stagger Lee, and Le Lion (all awesome German cocktail bars), that's for sure.

Now, that Kummel I brought back is kind of fun (see pic a few posts above)....

And if you can get your hands on it, grab a bottle of Dreiling aqua vitae (made near Hamburg) at *all costs*!
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#26 TAPrice

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Posted 29 November 2010 - 09:05 AM

Finally got to opening the Unicum that I brought back from Munich.
Whomever said that Unicum makes Fernet taste like coca-cola wasn't kidding.
This stuff is *really* bitter.


You drink enough Unicum and Fernet starts tasting sweet. Seriously.
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#27 devillighter

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Posted 29 October 2012 - 05:47 AM

The image on this page exactly matches what's on my shelf. The plastic top must be rare or very old. Almost no images of it could be found:

Drink Swap

I'll go out and pick up some Zwack (i.e. Unicum Next). Can't wait to compare. One can never have too many digestif bitters.

Edit: I emailed Zwack for more info.


This bottle design, with the plastic cap, looks identical to a group of bottles I ran across the other week in a dusty liquor store. There were at least a dozen bottles, many with labels falling off. I am planning on returning, so I may pick up a bottle and give it a try.

#28 EvergreenDan

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Posted 29 October 2012 - 08:03 AM

That link describe's Unicum's bitterness as "subtle." Um. No.

Edited by EvergreenDan, 29 October 2012 - 08:03 AM.

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#29 Frederic

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Posted 29 October 2012 - 09:59 PM

The company had an Unicum release party at Portland Cocktail Week last week. They also were heavily promoting there plum-infused Szilva. Not sure when it will be out, but so much more complex than Zwack which is heavily sweetened to dull the herbal notes.


Posted Image

#30 EvergreenDan

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Posted 31 October 2012 - 04:18 AM

@Frederic: Does "release" imply that Unicum will be re-released in the US, or only the new plum amaro? I agree that Zwack Liqueur is pretty uninteresting. I've never had Unicum, and I'm anxious to try it alone and in some recipes that I've collected.

Sugar is the enemy. You can always add it, but you can't take it out.
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