I’ve been planning a trip to Hungary for quite some time, so I couldn’t wait to do an interview with Iren to discuss Hungarian drink traditions. Iren, 28, was born in the capital, Budapest, but when she was still young, her family decided to move to one of the biggest wine regions in Hungary. Did you know Hungary is a big wine country??
Thanks for taking the time to speak with me. Let’s go straight to the point, tell me, what do you drink in Hungary?
A lot of wine, anything from whites to reds and sweeter dessert wines. Hungary is a big wine country. In fact, we have 22 wine regions if you count the smaller areas too! Some areas have volcanic soils and the climate is great for winemaking.
I did hear that Hungarians are big on spritzers, but I didn’t realise you actually are producing a lot of wine.
Yes, I like a good wine spritzer. You can add soda into the dessert wines also. There’s such a wide variety of wines and most of them work well in a spritz. Most places offer jugs of wine spritzers. I’ve noticed in the UK sometimes bar staff struggle to tell the difference between white- and red-wine glasses. I find it rather strange as it’s such a basic thing. In Hungary, many bars have a great selection of glassware.
Any stronger spirits, vodka maybe?
No, we don’t really drink vodka. Or it is available, but it is not a tradition. Palinka is a spirit everyone drinks. People make it at home, bring it to dinner parties, or give it as a gift. The older generation even believes a shot of Palinka in the morning keeps you fit and healthy.
What is Palinka exactly?
It is a spirit made from fruit, such as apples, apricot, sour cherry, plum or pear. My mum makes hers with dates, figs or honey. Basically, whichever fruits are ripe and available will work. You can also buy it everywhere, but there are local mini-distilleries where you can take your own mix and they distil it for you. After each visit to Hungary I make sure to bring a bottle of organic Palinka with me!
So you actually like it?
Yes, I love it! We drink it before dinner, especially if we are having fatty foods.. Hungarian food can be heavy and rich, so a shot of Palinka will help to break it down. Everyone has a bottle of Palinka in their house so it is always available.
How do you drink it? Do you use it in cocktails?
Palinka is normally served as a shot, slightly chilled. Not necessarily from the fridge but from the cellar, almost like red wine. We don’t really mix it with anything, just straight up.
Any other drinks you can think of?
Unicum is a bitter liqueur, but it’s not my favourite so I can’t tell you much about it. Drinking beer is also a big thing in Hungary.
We make an excellent poppy seed liqueur. It’s around 30% ABV and tastes like cake! I’ve recently discovered they are selling one brand at Tesco’s called Magna Cum Laude mácum! It is black in colour and comes in a lovely bottle. I am currently trying to come up with a cocktail recipe with it!
I need to check that out, thanks for the tip! And do let me know your recipe when it’s ready!
White wine spritzers are popular even in the UK, as they make a good refreshing drink especially in the summer. Here’s how to master a Hungarian spirtzer with a twist or without. Note that they don’t use ice in theirs, the key is to keep the soda chilled!
A perfect Hungarian Fröccs
2 parts of either white or red table wine
1 part of soda
Or with a twist
Add a dash of fruit liqueur, such as raspberry or cherry.