(CNN) — Whether you find yourself in a no-frills kocsma filled with beer-swilling old timers, an elegant cocktail lair or one of Budapest's quirky ruin pubs jammed with tourists, the Hungarian capital's drinking scene has one constant.
Countless times throughout the night, the bartender will reach for the same distinctive, round-bellied bottle.
The inky, amber-tinted liquid inside is called Unicum, and with roots that delve back to the late 18th century, it's one of the most revered national drinks in Hungary.
Like that other boozy Hungarian favorite, the fruit brandy pálinka, Unicum is largely savored as an aperitif or a digestif in shot form.
Produced by Budapest based beverage company Zwack, it's a herbal liqueur comprising a secret blend of more than 40 herbs and spices aged in oak.
Less aggressive than Fernet yet beefier than Jägermeister, thick, bitter Unicum, laced with subtle piney eucalyptus notes, is indeed bracing, a taste that grows delightfully more palatable with each sip according to Unicum brand ambassador Csaba Gulyás.
"It's a bittersweet potion, which isn't easy to enjoy the first time, but then you cross that barrier and it becomes your favorite," says Gulyás.
Unicum was originally created to cure Habsburg ruler Joseph II of a bout of indigestion.
Courtesy of Zwack Unicum
The story behind how Unicum came to be is equal parts fabled and turbulent.