Sip and Savor: Budapest’s Exquisite Beverages
Hungary, though compact in size, stands tall in the world of wines with its 22 wine regions. These regions produce an enticing range of wines, from the sparkling pezsgő to light whites, dry reds, and the distinctive sweet dessert wine, Tokaji. But the drinks menu of Hungary doesn’t stop at wines. The country also serves up beer, pálinka (a fruit brandy), several types of brandy, and the herbal liqueur Unicum. Let’s embark on a liquid journey through Budapest, the capital of these potable delights.
PÁLINKA – The Fiery Fruit Spirit
The Kecskemét region, located on the Great Hungarian Plain, southeast of Budapest, is the largest producer of pálinka, a spirit distilled from a variety of fruits. This Hungarian native comes in flavours ranging from barack (apricot) to cseresznye (cherry), but it’s the szilva (plum) from Szatmár that earns high favor among locals. Hungary also prides itself on other indigenous spirits, like Törköly, a delicate-tasting spirit distilled from rape, and Vilmos, a brandy made from Williams pears.
SPARKLING WINES – The Bubbly Delight
Sparkling wine, or pezsgő in Hungarian, has a well-deserved reputation in the country. Its production, inspired by French methods, was introduced to Hungary by József Törley in 1881. Today, excellent sparkling wines are still produced in the Budafok region, home to the first production plant established by Törley. Notable sparkling wine vineyards also thrive around Budapest, in the Pannonia and Balatonboglár regions. Keep an eye out for labels like Törley and Hungaria.
HUNGARIAN BEERS – The Paprika Companion
With its thirst-quenching quality, beer has been gaining popularity in Hungary, especially as a companion to traditional paprika-rich dishes like goulash. Authentic Hungarian breweries such as Arany Ászok, Kőbányai, and Dreher continue to produce beloved local beers, despite many breweries being acquired by foreign corporations.
HUNGARIAN WINES – A Symphony of Styles
Thanks to the burgeoning private cellar scene, the availability and variety of excellent wines in Hungary have seen a significant uptick. Popular styles include dry white Chardonnay and Reisling, medium-dry Zödszilváni, Hárslevelű, and Szürkebarát, and aromatic Muskotály. For red wines, enjoy dry Kékfrankos, Burgundi, Oportó, Cabernet, Pinot Noir, and medium-dry Merlot. Don’t miss the robust red Egri Leányka and the dry red Egri Bikavér, or “Bulls’ Blood”, from Eger.
TOKAJI – The Golden Dessert Wine
Tokaji, the dessert wine, boasts a distinctive style. The bouquet and flavour come from a mould that grows uniquely at the confluence of the Bodrog and Tisza rivers, and the volcanic soil enriches the vines. Tokaji ranges from sweet to dry and is full-bodied and rich. A particular delight is Aszú, made with over-ripe grapes harvested after the first frost, lending the wine its body and sweetness.
UNICUM – The Bitter Herb Liqueur
Unicum, a bitter liqueur created from a blend of 40 Hungarian herbs, has a history that spans over 150 years. Whether served as an apéritif or a digestif with coffee, Unicum offers a unique drinking experience. The recipe, preserved by the Zwack family since the reign of King Franz I, was initially a remedy for the king, prescribed by the court physician, a member of the Zwack family.
The varied beverage scene in Budapest provides an essential companion to the city’s culinary landscape. From delightful sparkling wines to the intense flavors of local spirits and the soothing bitterness of herb-infused liqueurs, Budapest promises a journey for every palate.