One of Hungary’s most important drinks, these round, green bottles stamped with a golden cross on a red label are ubiquitous in Hungary. 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, which has owned the company since the end of the 18th century (with the exception of 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. Unicum is a rich, dark bitter which is 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, and is now safeguarded by the Archbishop of Esztergom). Part of the secret mixture is macerated for 30 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. The distillation gives Unicum its distinctive aroma and bitter bouquet, and the process of aging adds mellowness and body. The family is serious when they say that the recipe is a secret: only the immediate family members know the exact proportions of herbs that go into a bottle.