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A Guide to Pálinka in Budapest

April 17th, 2024

Hungarians have many customs, but there is nothing more traditional than pálinka. It is a part of Hungarian lifestyle and culture and they enjoy it whether sad or happy, a drink is always welcome in Hungary. Book your own pálinka tasting here!

What is Pálinka?

The first records of pálinka date back to the 14th century. It was known as "Aqua vitae reginae Hungariae" or, in English, as "the aqua vitae of the King Charles of Hungary".

This spirit was probably brandy, mixed with rosemary, and used as medicine for the king and queen who suffered from arthritis. For centuries it was a drink that peasants made in their backyard, but in the 17th century an official act put an end to all that.

Pálinka is a drink with a high percentage of alcohol, on average about 40%. It is a brandy that is distilled from almost any type of fruit, although peach, apricot, pear and plum are the most common types. Most of the pálinka consumed by the locals is homemade.

The sugars in the fruits are fermented by the bacteria that are found in the skin of the fruit or in its environment. When they exceed a figure close to 20% of alcohol, the bacteria die. The only way to raise the gradation is through artificial methods. This is where the alembic comes into play, a simple instrument that heats this liquid until it begins to evaporate.

As the alcohol evaporates before the water does, the result is that the product collected in the other container has more alcohol than originally. The origin of the drink dates back to the 14th century, and today it is still being consumed. Despite its strength, it is still sold in many stores and can be bought in most places. 

Here are some recommendations of where you can taste the finest palinka in Hungary!

Palinka Museum

Palinka museum Palinka museum 

Szimpla Kert

Szimpla KertSzimpla Kert

Szimpla is one of the oldest ruin bars in the city, and perhaps the most well known. Bursting with color, music, and art, many people come here to sip a beer and take in the spectacle. But why not take it one step further and indulge in some brandy in this one-of-a-kind ruin bar. By day there are fairs, at night there is a party, and in this beautiful place you can consume a huge variety of pálinka.  

No tourist who visits Hungary should miss out on this unique drink. If you are a first-timer in this country, raise a shot glass and take a sip of this formidable drink. Choose any one of these places to experience pálinka and enjoy the splendor of its taste!