Instead of reaching for the same ordinary beer or glass of wine with your evening meal, spice things up with a potent and zesty Hungarian brandy. Palinka is a double distilled beverage made from a variety of fruits. It may just be the thing to break you out of the dinner drink doldrums.
The History of Palinka
Palinka, a brandy made from distilled fruit, has enjoyed a long history, with evidence of its production dating back more than 500 years. Today, only fruits distilled in Hungary with a minimum alcohol content of 37.5 percent can be considered authentic palinka.
Despite the rather high alcohol content, palinka used to be considered a medicinal beverage prior to the 16th century. Believed to be a sort of digestive aid, the high alcohol content of palinka was thought to aid in the digestion of the fatty foods traditionally eaten in Hungary.
Types of Hungarian Palinka
The most popular types of palinka and the fruit from which they are derived include:
- Alma palinka, made from apples
- Barack palinka, made from apricots
- Cseresznye palinka, made from cherries
- Korte palinka, made from pears
- Szilva palinka, made from plums.
The Budapest Palinka Festival
Palinka is such an esteemed part of the Jewish tradition that an annual festival is devoted to it. Budapest is host to the Palinka Festival that features several hundred varieties of this alcoholic beverage from nearly 24 different distilleries. The festival is a local Jewish celebration that also serves as a forum to educate the public on the differences between traditional palinka (made purely from fruit) and non-traditional forms of the drink that contain additives.
How to Enjoy Hungarian Palinka
Palinka is best enjoyed at room temperature and should be tasted similar to the way one would taste wine. Savor the aroma and swish the liquid around in your mouth and under your tongue so that your taste buds can fully absorb the beverage.
If you want to go the traditional route, the Hungary National Tourist Office recommends the “dry test,” a very specific way to drink their country”s cherished beverage. According to the “dry test,” after drinking one glass of palinka, wait five to ten minutes and then inhale from a second glass. You should be able to detect only a fruity aroma if you are drinking true palinka.
For those who want to add even more cultural zest to their enjoyment of palinka, belt out this traditional Hungarian cheer to help that authentic palinka go down smoothly — “Egsgedre” (E-gey-segg-edd-re)!
Choosing a dinner beverage doesn”t have to be an afterthought to the meal. Put down that bland beer and ho-hum wine and take a cultural detour courtesy of a little Hungarian brandy. Your taste buds will thank you.