The Emperor Cocktail

Drink being poured into wineglass
Getty Images/Joe Clark
  • Total: 3 mins
  • Prep: 3 mins
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Yield: 1 cocktail (1 serving)

The emperor is a wonderful Unicum cocktail and a great introduction to the herbal liqueur. Considered Hungary's national drink, it's a unique spirit made with over 40 herbs and spices and it's treated very delicately in this recipe.

Unicum, from the House of Zwack, is often compared to other digestifs, including amaros such as Averna as well as Fernet-Branca and Jägermeister. Its underlying flavor is bitter with pine and hints of eucalyptus, so it's definitely unique. Some people even tout Unicum's ability to calm the stomach, which is why it makes fantastic after dinner drinks.

In the emperor, Unicum is gently enhanced with sweet vermouth and orange curaçao. The trio comes together spectacularly and it's a perfect drink to conclude a nice dinner party.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 ounces Unicum Herbal Liqueur
  • 2/3 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1 teaspoon orange curaçao
  • Garnish: ​orange twist

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, pour the Unicum, sweet vermouth, and orange curaçao.

  3. Strain into a chilled coupe glass.

  4. Garnish with an orange twist.

  5. Serve and enjoy!

Tips

  • The biggest consideration with sweet vermouth is that it's fresh. The fortified wine has a short shelf life of just three months once open. If you have to dust off your bottle or have not stored it in the refrigerator, it's likely time for a replacement.
  • Though it's just a small amount, the quality of the orange curaçao you pour makes a difference. Avoid the super cheap bottles and spend a little more on a premium brand instead. Look for brands like Senior Curaçao of Curaçao or Pierre Ferrand.
  • Blue curaçao is not a viable substitute. First of all, it will change the color of the drink and, secondly, it's often overly sweetened and artificially flavored. It would be better to pour Cointreau or Grand Marnier (neither of which is curaçao, but you'll still get a quality orange liqueur).
  • Unicum is best served chilled when drunk straight and even though the cocktail is shaken with ice, it really does need a frosty glass. The quickest method is to place a few ice cubes in the glass while you're mixing, then discard them before straining.

Recipe Variation

  • As with any vermouth cocktail, adjust the ratio of the three ingredients to suit your personal taste. You may enjoy it a little more with extra sweet vermouth or curaçao or may want to back off on either ingredient. Play with it to see discover what you enjoy most.

How Strong Is an Emperor Cocktail?

Unicum is bottled at a full 80 proof, so it's not a light liqueur and creates some very flavorful cocktails. In the emperor, it boosts the alcohol content up to 26 percent ABV (52 proof) or so. That puts this cocktail right in line with similar drinks of this style, and just a little lighter than the average martini.