Eastern Europe: Zwack! Cocktail Hour and the Perfect Challah

zwack

Chris proved his chops as a Master Mixologist with a survey of Zwack liqueurs from Hungary.  Not satisfied with shots of each of the liqueurs in their pure forms, he also treated us to 3 masterfully mixed cocktails bringing out the unique fruity character of each.

For a little history, Chris found this information on drinkhacker.com:

Zwack Unicum Liqueur – This spirit, originally crafted from more than 40 herbs and spices in 1790. Very bitter, it’s a digestif for the Fernet fan, with sweetness a distant afterthought. Pushing past the initial shock of bitterness, Unicum offers a heavy cinnamon note character, with orange peel beneath. Secondary notes include licorice, dark chocolate, dried herbs, and some wood, driven by the six months Unicum spends in oak barrels before bottling. This is a solid alternative to Fernet, offering its own take on the bitter liqueur without reinventing the category.

Zwack Liqueur – Alternately known as “Unicum Next” internationally, this is Unicum’s lighter-colored and far sweeter take on Unicum, clearly designed for a younger, more sweet-toothed audience. Slightly syrupy, Zwack is quite fruity, driven as I noted in my original review by cherry notes — though these are more of the cherry jelly variety than the fresh fruit. It’s quite a different beast than Unicum, one which lends itself to drinking as a shot, using as a mixer, and generally appealing to a more novice drinker. That’s neither good nor bad… but it’s not Unicum.

Zwack Unicum Plum Liqueur  – Take Unicum and age it instead for six months in oak casks on a bed of dried plums (huge in Hungary) and you have Unicum Plum. The nose isn’t immediately distinguishable from Unicum, licorice and spice notes. The body is instantly familiar, but brings more fruit to the table — a Port-like prune character that helps to balance out some of Unicum’s overwhelming bitterness. If you’re looking for something somewhere in between Unicum and Zwack on the bitter to sweet spectrum, Unicum Plum may fit the bill, though I find the bitter Unicum more exciting.

zwack shots

 

Zwack Cocktails

cocktail

Adapted from recipe by Joaquín Simó, the New York City bartender best known for his work at Death and Co. and Pouring Ribbons. Unicum and Zwack are traditionally consumed as shots, but their herbal makeup gives you plenty to work with when mixing drinks.

Hungarian Orchard

1 ounce Zwack

1/2 ounce apple brandy

1 ounce fresh orange juice

Apple slices for garnish

Fresh grated cinnamon for garnish

Combine Zwack, apple brandy and orange juice into a cocktail with ice and shake vigorously. Strain contents into a Collins glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with apple slices and fresh grated cinnamon.

Masked Man

1/2 ounce Unicum

1 ounce apple brandy

1/2 ounce pumpkin spice syrup

1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice

Grated nutmeg for garnish

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice. Stir well and strain contents into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with grated nutmeg.

Unicum Plum Cobbler

1 ounce Unicum Plum

1/2 ounce aperitif (I used apple brandy)

1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice

1/4 ounce simple syrup

1/2 tbsp strawberry preserves

3 dashes aromatic bitters

Lemon peel for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake vigorously. Pour contents into a Nick & Nora glass (or a coupe). Garnish with lemon peel.

 

Both to serve as a warm and meaningful welcome, and to to ensure that the Spicebox Supperclubbers could make it through the meal, Dave presented us with a beautiful challah.

challah

Dave writes,

We were going for two different traditions with the bread:

Slavic tradition of welcoming distinguished guests with bread and salt.
http://www.adorableland.com/traditional-slavs-greeting-of-bread-and-salt/

and

Jewish tradition of serving challah with salt.
http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/484194/jewish/Why-dip-in-salt.htm

From a culinary point of view, the salt provided a nice flavor contrast to the slight sweetness of the dough and the raisins.  The recipe from the challah comes from Zabar’s, that great New York deli, to which Dave’s family has a personal connection (almost could have been related!)

Simple Sweet Challah
from Andrea Watman

http://www.zabars.com/SIMPLE_SWEET_CHALLAH_PRINT.html

This is my favorite Challah recipe. It is easy to make – and the sweet taste of the bread is just wonderful. I serve it warm with honey on Rosh Hashanah. Growing up my Grandma Bertha made dinner every Friday night. She set a beautiful table with a Challah as the centerpiece. No, she didn’t bake it – she walked to 161st Street and Gerard Avenue in the Bronx – to The G & R Bakery. If you lived anywhere near Yankee Stadium The G & R Bakery was where you met on Friday’s. You had to go early in the day because there would always be a line. The Challah was so shiny that as I child I thought it was polished. For years I tried to bake Challah and could never master it. This recipe has never failed me – so I hope you’ll give it a try.

Ingredients:
2 packages dry yeast
2/3 Cup Warm Water (110 degrees)
5 Egg Yolks – Lightly Beaten
3 Whole Eggs – Lightly Beaten
7 Tablespoons Corn Oil
½ Cup Sugar
2 Teaspoons Salt
4 ½ Cups Flour
1 Cup Raisins (Optional)
1 Egg Yolk – Beaten
Poppy Seeds (optional)

Preparation:
1. In cup or small bowl dissolve Yeast in the warm water with approx 1 tablespoon of sugar. After just a few minutes the yeast should begin to “bloom”. It will become foamy and it will give off a sweet smell. If your yeast is not fresh this will not happen – do not go any further – start over with fresh yeast.

2. In a large bowl mix Egg Yolks, Eggs, Oil, remaining Sugar, Salt and Yeast mixture.

3. Add enough flour to form stiff but sticky dough (you can do this in a stand mixer – using the dough hook attachment).

4. Then turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (adding more flour if needed) – about 6 minutes – work in raisins as kneading.

5. Form a ball and place in a greased bowl and turn dough so all sides are greased. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and place in warm area to double in bulk – about two hours.

6. Punch down and knead briefly.

7. Roll dough into a 24” long rope. Create a spiral round loaf. (Sometimes I divide the dough into three parts, then I make three smaller ropes and braid them – then I form a circle from with the braid).

8. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment.

9. Brush loaf with beaten egg yolk, sprinkle top with poppy seeds (if desired), and allow too rise until dough doubles in size – about 45 minutes.

10. Bake until golden brown in a pre-heated 375 degree oven – 35 to 40 minutes.

11. Allow to cool before slicing and enjoy!

 

Did you enjoy this sample of Eastern European food and drink? Visit the overview of our menu and come back next week for the delightful first course.  Thanks for coming by!

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