Our guest from Melbourne asked:
”I bought a tiny bottle of that Unicum for my son. I was told that it is sometimes used medicinally. So do you serve it in a liqueur glass, or in a teaspoon like medicine?”
The accepted view is that Unicum is medicinal. Even its Hungarian categorization supports this belief, it’s called gyomorkeserű (stomach bitter). Actually, it’s medicinal only in the sense that the bitter taste comes from the herbs and it’s used as appetite stimulator. The rest is myth or PR. We drink it because we like it. Drinkers fall into two antagonistic camps, pro-Unicum and pro-Jagermeister. The latter has a sweet overtaste.
Hungarian traditional measurement for shots is féldeci (feles) = 500 cl but these days the western standard became popular, 2 or 4 centiliters. Those who are not used to alcohol should start with a small shot and see when he can stop having another and then one more shot. Unicum can be addictive. I used to drink a lot of it, but by now my taste changed and I went over to red wine and rosé.
A story: In the 1980s many Hungarian engineers worked in Lybia where, being an Islam country, alcohol is strictly forbidden. These Hungarians made the Lybian customs officers believe that the round bottle with the red cross (actually golden) contains medicine. The business went very well until one – most probably tipsy – engineer dropped a bottle, it spilt and the Arabs found out the truth. Game over.