Hungarians love their local spirits, and if you drink even if only socially, chances are you will, too. Wine, beer, and other spirits can be ordered off menus at restaurants and bars or purchased in shops to take back home. When you are in Hungary, look for the following alcoholic beverages.
Hungary’s 22 wine regions produce everything from the sweet, fruity Tokaj wine to the full-bodied red Bull’s Blood of Eger. Wine tours are popular throughout Hungary, but even if your trip takes you only to the capital, you won’t have any trouble finding cellars and sellers of wine in Budapest. Paired with a hearty meal, tasty appetizers, or even with a scrumptious Hungarian dessert, the wines of this country will leave a lasting impression. Wines can be ordered by the bottle or the glass, and wine cellars throughout Hungary will offer wine-tasting specials.
If you are really interested in the history and process of making wine in Hungary, seek out wine tours, which will introduce you to local wine varieties, allow you to meet the country’s wine producers, and show you some of Hungary’s most beautiful countryside.
Pálinka is Hungary’s fruit brandy. It varies in its alcohol content and is made from a variety of fruits, including plums, apples, and apricots. The making of Pálinka has risen to an art. It’s possible to sample the fruit brandy at restaurants and pubs, or at one of the several annual festivals that celebrate this national beverage. Pálinka is usually drunk at room temperature out of special, tulip-shaped glasses. It can either precede or follow a meal, but the person enjoying the drink should savor both its fragrance and flavor, both of which have been developed to stimulate the senses.
Like many East Central European countries, Hungary produces beer. Domestic beers in Hungary are mostly German-style lagers produced at one of four breweries, the oldest having been established in the middle of the 19th century. The production of microbrews is also on the rise. Pubs, restaurants, and bars will offer beer by the glass or in pitchers, and the number of beers available will vary by the venue. Other European beers are also available in Hungarian bars and supermarkets.
Hungarians do not usually clink beer glasses, instead simply raising them during a toast. However, they may clink glasses when drinking other alcoholic beverages.
Unicum is a Hungarian national beverage and an herbal liqueur. Unicum, also known by the maker’s name, Zwack, is drunk either before or after meals. Its original recipe has been altered to produce an updated version of the traditional drink.
Obtaining Hungarian Alcoholic Beverages
Some Hungarian wines, beers, and spirits can be obtained in the States through specialty retailers. When you are in Hungary, you can purchase them from supermarkets or wine cellars. If you find that you like a particular type of wine or spirits, consider taking home a bottle for yourself, especially if you have never seen it available for sale where you live. You should also consider checking websites that sell alcoholic beverages to people in the United States. You may find that you can order your favorite Hungarian spirit to your heart’s content, but you may also find that it isn’t sold to retailers in the United States.
Whatever you do, if you find a wine or other beverage that you really like, write down the name of it before you have drunk too much. The Hungarian language is one of the most difficult for English speakers to learn, and chances are that, after you knock back a few, you will completely forget the name of whatever it is you’re drinking!