zwack, unicum, bitter

The history of the world-famous Unicum started in the royal court of Joseph II, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary. They jealously guard their 228 years old secret, although they know that they must keep up with the quickly developing world. The Hungarian brand wants to strengthen their presence in Italy, Germany, and Romania, while on the long run they would like to enter the South American market as well, reports Világgazdaság.

Zwack, Sándor, unicum

Világgazdaság published a long interview with Sándor Zwack, head of the board of Zwack Unicum Plc., who tells the story how he took over the company from his father:

“He put the secret recipe in front of me and said my time has come.”

– recalls Sándor the moment of generation switch. Although they were working in the same building, they rarely met as his father was constantly in and out. However, they always drank a cup of coffee on Monday mornings and discussed the happenings of the Serie A game of the weekend as they were both great Fiorentina fans. They did so because they watched the games separately as both of them were hotheaded while supporting their team. He thought that this will be yet another discussion about last week’s match, but his father gave him the recipe, thus letting him know that he will take charge. Not just him, but his mother and sister are playing an active role in the everyday life of the company as well. But what is the secret of Unicum?

Three people have been involved in the production process for twenty years’ now; they are the only ones who know exactly how much should be added to Unicum from the particular ingredients. There is a pre-minced herb mixture as well, which is called the heart of Unicum. Only the Zwack family knows the composition of this, and they keep it in a safe written down on a piece of paper. This special mixture has been added to Unicum by the female members of the family for generations even before World War I and II, and this has not changed ever since. His mother, Anne does this symbolic task currently, while his younger sister is a member of the board as well.

According to Sándor, innovation and tradition are important as well:

“We are living history, that is the road we are taking, but regardless, we must keep up with times (…) We won’t lose our identity, but without improving our technological base, we would not get anywhere. One would collapse if they saw the technology we are using in the manufacture.”

bar, unicum, berlin

– he states. He thinks everyone should work with something they are familiar with; for them these are herbs. Nobody has such a vast experience about them in Hungary as the members of the Zwack family have. They know the type of the barrel and the time the liquor has to age. For example, Unicum Riserva is aged for six months in a 16000l barrel which is more than 80 years old. After the Germans blew up the bridges of Budapest in 1945, the Russians came, who drank all the Unicum. They built pontoon bridges from the empty Zwack barrels, but left these barrels, because those were too big for them.

family, zwack, unicum

Sándor himself believes in his father’s philosophy: the most important values are heart, wit and empathy. His door is always open and anyone can share their opinion with him. His employees tell him if they do not agree with him. Maybe these are altogether the reason behind the success of the Hungarian bitter.

Thirsty for more Hungarian specialties? Learn more about Pálinka and other hungaricums here or here.

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Source: Világgazdaság

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