Pálinka is the traditional Hungarian shot which is similar to a fruit brandy most often made out of plums, pears, apricot or peaches but also very popular made from cherries, apples, raspberries or even mulberries and caraway. So you see that basically from everything you can make a Pálinka and in Hungary it is probably the most popular drink next to water.
Even though Pálinka is a really strong drink it is very popular also among young people or women who often drink it in a long drink for example pear Pálinka with apple juice which actually tastes quite nice. In almost every pup or club in Budapest you have a corner dedicated to Pálinka and producers nowadays are really fighting to be on spot in the nightlife in Budapest.
Types of Pálinka
There are different types of Pálinka but 2 of them are probably the most popular. Next to the normal Pálinka there is the so called Ágyas Pálinka which means “bedded” and simply describes the fact that there are still fruits inside sucked full of alcohol. Also you have Kisüsti Pálinka (double destilled), Érlelt Pálinka (aged at least 6 months in wooden barrels under 1000l), Ó Pálinka (aged at least 12 months in wooden barrels under 1000l) and probably the most likely to get next to a regular Pálinka is the so called Mézes Pálinka which is enriched with honey to make it sweeter and not taste so strong anymore. It is of course a question how strong and what flavour you like your Pálinka to choose in the end. As most of the Pálinkas are really strong with around 40‰ some people feel it is not their drink and therefore in many places like restaurants or clubs you get the mézes Pálinka nowadays.
How to enjoy a Hungarian Pálinka?
Pálinka is of course not only consumed to get drunk at parties but mainly it is part of the Hungarian eating and drinking tradition. As usual with shots they are drunk after a meal in order to clear up the stomache but in Hungary Pálinka is mainly an aperitif, thus consumed before the meal to strengthen the hunger and get appetite.
Hungarian Pálinka is idealy served in room temperature, not as many people believe chilled, to give the flavours the chance to really develop in the mouth. Therefore it is also necessary to not just get it down as fast as possible but also keep it in your mouth for a moment, let it get under your tongue to touch all taste points in order to develop the right taste.
Budapest Pálinka Festival
Yes, there is a festival for Pálinka as well in Festival City Budapest just like there is one for sausage, wine, “Mangalica” pigs, Pörkölt and so on. The Festival takes place ever year in the Buda Castle at the end of September or beginning of October. I don’t want to go too much into detail of the festival here, you can find more information in my article about the Budapest Pálinka Festival. It is definitely a good choice to go there to see the culture of Pálinka from different producers from all over Hungary.
Pálinka Tasting Trips
Just like having a wine tasting you can go for a tour of Pálinka tasting in different regions of Hungary right in the producers facilities as well as directly in Budapest in different restaurants or shops of Pálinka producers. In some Pálinka specialized shops in Budapest you can taste the different Pálinkas they sell. In general I think a Pálinka tasting is a good opportunity to learn something about Hungarian Pálinka itself or at least to decide on which you would like to buy.