Mixology Monday: Aperitif

Darcy O'Neil :: June 26, 2006 7:30 PM
It’s another Mixology Monday and usually I’m on the ball and have my write up done a day or two before hand. Well not today, I’ve got more things to do than a corporate executives henchman. But, never one to miss making a drink and writing about it, here I am. The idea of the aperitif topic is a good one, but one that I’m unprepared for. I do have lots of bitters and liqueurs that qualify as aperitifs, but I usually like to do something unique. As I sat and contemplated what to write about I decided to create the ultimate aperitif using a handful of aperitifs in my liquor cabinet. This is effectively the “hail Mary” shot when you are running out of time. The lynch pin of this “mixture” will be Unicum bitters. If you don’t know too much about Unicum, I’ll provide a little background. This could be good, this could be bad.

First, I’ve always wanted to do something with the Unicum bitters, but they are pretty strong and tend to over power other flavours. The taste is similar to Jagermeister, but Unicum is stronger, more bitter and less sweet. Jägermeister is for little boys and girls, Unicum is for manly men and hairy women. And that’s why this bottle has been sitting around for a while. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about Unicum:

UnicumUnicum is a Hungarian herbal bitter liqueur, drunk as a digestif and apéritif. According to legend, the drink was initially presented by an ancestor of Zwack founder József Zwack to Kaiser Joseph II of Austria, who proclaimed "Das ist ein Unikum!" ("This is a specialty!"). The liqueur is today produced by Zwack according to a secret formula including more than 40 herbs and aged in oak casks.

When I first bought a bottle of Unicum, I was attracted to the bottle, which resembles a hand grenade. My first sip, before I was big into bitters, was definitely eye opening. I’ve had Jagermeister before, but this was more bitter and didn’t have the apparent sweetness. Also, Unicum lingers for a while after to take a drink. It’s not unpleasant, but it does have some kick.

With the clock ticking and needing to make an aperitif, I made an executive decision and grabbed the Unicum, dry vermouth, Lillet and the brandy. This was going to be the drink, and I can almost guarantee that this drink has never been made before. Next I need proportions, and when you are short on time equal parts work. The four ingredients were treated as equals and dumped into the cocktail shaker with some trusty ice cubes. I gave it a good shake. Next a glass was in order and because this was a fairly big drink I picked a wine glass. When I poured it in, it was a little thick, so dilution was in order. I broke out the trust Perrier and poured a couple of ounces. Now my aperitif looks like a glass of ale.

The first sip is all Unicum bitters, the stuff is strong. Once your tongue acclimatizes to the unique flavour then the other flavours pop out. The first one is the sweetness of the Lillet and a bit of the vermouth. The brandy seems to disappear. Overall not bad, but not great. The flavours don’t combine to create anything unique. Would I serve this to anyone? Probably not. For now the Unicum will hang around fixing indigestion (it works really well for that) and being used as a counter challenge to anyone who brags about how much Jagermeister they can drink.  “Jagermeister, that doesn’t impress me, that’s for little girls you big wuss. Now Unicom, that will fix your receding hair line!

This round of Mixology Monday is being hosted by Jimmy over at Jimmy’s Cocktail Hour. Be sure to stop by and see what other folks are posting.


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