Round the World in 20 Drinks: Hungary

Hungary isn’t all about nudist baths or floating down the Danube - the booze (and the food) are definitely worth dabbling in too

Feature by Laura Forsyth | 03 Apr 2013
  • Unicum (Food News)

The most celebrated boozy treat is the traditional Pálinka which has been chugged by royalty since the 14th century, originally as a ‘medicine.’ Derived from the Slavonic term ‘to burn,’ your cheeks will certainly have a rosy glow after a few glasses. This double-distilled, multi-fruit brandy is bursting with flavours, ranging from pears, plums, apricots, and apples to other random fruit you’ve probably never heard of. Sometimes it can be made from honey but either way, you're guaranteed the ultimate sweetly satisfying sensation. Serve at room temperature in a wide-bottom-narrow-top glass for the full fruit-based experience.

Now, you can’t drink without having something to eat (responsibility and all that), so you should probably check out the national dishes. As with the booze it's important to know, or at least be able to work out, what you're getting as it can go horribly wrong (think mouthfuls of gravy-soaked bones and gristle, the memory still haunts me).

If you want to play it safe but still taste the culture, check out anywhere serving Chicken Paprikash. The flavour is in the name; the beautiful paprika cream-soaked chicken is simple yet delicious. And vegetarians should try Lescó if they want a spin on standard vegetable: this plate is bursting with the same spice as the Chicken Paprikash but is substituted with tomatoes, onion and peppers.

If you are looking to clear your palate before or after your tasty platters, then I recommend you have a swig of Unicum. Although the name may sound dodgy, do not fear: it is created mainly using herbs, over forty in fact. It's pretty much one of your five-a-day. There are different variations of the drink, the most popular brand being produced by Zwack, which infuses the oaky undertones with a citrus flavour. This iconic drink has been around for centuries so if you fancy a zesty kick before, straight after, or even several hours after your meal, it's worth a shot.

Or if you aren’t into syrupy brandies and liqueurs and just want to chill with a traditional beer then do not fear as the Hungarians have got this sorted too, with German-style Borsodi or a golden Dreher. There isn’t a shortage of wines, either, with variations ranging from a dry yet aromatic Furmint, to a tasty Tokaji, so you're guaranteed to find a drink to suit your food and mood. You'll never go Hungary again. Hungary or drink-ary. Crikey. That Pálinka must have burned our brains as well as our cheeks...