The plethora of restaurants—from the humble street foods and homemade soup shops to the Michelin-starred giants—clearly shows Hungary’s passion for good food. But what about good drinks? Don’t worry; Hungarians also know the importance of a fine beverage, whether it’s a handcrafted cocktail or artisanal coffee. As F. Scott Fitzgerald so poetically put it, “Here’s to alcohol, the rose-colored glasses of life.” So, here’s to the not-to-be-missed, rose-colored glasses of Hungary.
This drink with an almost giggle-producing name is an herbal bitters that is often used as a digestif (think Hungary’s answer to Angostura bitters).
Produced by Zwack, Unicum is one of Hungary’s traditional drinks crafted from a secret recipe that includes more than forty herbs and spices. Once the drink is created it is aged in oak casks for more than 6 months. This caramel-colored drink is then served chilled in a shot glass. While it is an acquired taste the locals will tell you that nothing will cure a stomachache faster than a shot (or two) of Unicum.
Old Unicum bottle at the Unicum Museum in Budapest. Photo: Zoltán Perényi / Budapest Local
If you enjoy an evening snifter of brandy then you’ll love drinking pálinka, Hungarian fruit brandy. While the special brandy can be made from a variety of different fruits, pálinka’s most common flavors include cherry, plum, apple and apricot.
Pálinka is lauded here in its mother country, even boasting its own festivals, events and contests. After all, it isn’t traditional pálinka unless it’s made in Hungary. But be warned: pálinka is a high-proof alcohol so a little goes a long way.
Photo: Vince Magazin
People often don’t realize the incredible viniculture that Hungary possesses with 22 different wine regions and over 100 different varietals. While many of the Hungarian wines are well known, often the most famous and beloved Hungarian wine is Tokaji.
Made in the Tokaj region of Hungary, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tokaji Aszú is a sweet white wine made from noble rot grapes that offers up hints of honey and nectar. This coveted Hungarian wine has been called “the king of wines and the wine of kings” by Louis XIV (so it must be good!). It pairs nicely with seafood, certain cheeses and citrus-forward desserts, but can also simply be enjoyed on its own.
Photo: Budapest Local
Hungary isn’t just for wine lovers. If you have an affinity for craft beer you’ll be in good hands here in Budapest. From humble at-home brewing to recognized artisan breweries such as Mad Scientist, Monyó and Horizont, many of the companies that pioneered the craft beer movement in Hungary have made it the booming scene it is today.
Bars, shops and supermarkets now stock their shelves with a variety of local craft beers, so you’re never too far from that next delicious brew. Budapest even hosts a Beer Week once a year. So if you’re a craft beer connoisseur you won’t want to miss this event happening in May.
Photo: Claudio Saroldi
Any wine that’s been named “Bull’s Blood” is enough to pique our interest. This is a traditional red wine with quite an illustrious past that is made in the volcanic soil of northern Eger. In fact, it is this wine that was attributed to Hungary’s victory against the Turks.
Today, this wine is getting the spotlight once more as young local winemakers work to draw attention to this delicious and bold vino. Egri Bikaver is always a blend of three different varieties. It’s great by itself but also holds its own with paprika-spiced dishes. It’s spicy, fresh and well balanced, just like a dream date.
It might sound a bit absurd but despite all the other drinks that Hungary manufactures, the national drink of Hungary is actually coffee. But not just any coffee. Hungarian coffee (referred to as kávé) is a strong, highly caffeinated black espresso similar in strength to a hearty Italian espresso.
This type of coffee most likely originated from the Turkish conquerors back in the mid-16th century, when Hungarians first referred it to as “black soup”. Today you can find an endless supply of cozy coffeehouses in Budapest dolling out fancier forms of this beloved caffeinated drink, from fancy leaf-shaped foam cappuccinos and Aeropress to Chemex brews and espresso tonics. Simply put, if you find yourself tired in Budapest the fault is most likely yours.
Photo: Budapest Local
No, you didn’t read that wrong. You can actually drink the thermal waters from the famous baths of Hungary. Of course, you probably don’t want to drink the thermal waters that you are soaking in but many of the popular baths such as Lukács and Rudas Baths have “drinking halls” where you can enjoy the warm, healing mineral waters straight from the source.
These waters have long been used to cure many aches, pains and other health problems. So next time you head to the baths don’t forget to order up some “gyógyvíz”.
Once the leaves fall away and crisp autumn days give way to chiller winter nights the city comes alive with cozy stalls and Christmas markets that just want to keep you warm. One of the best ways to nix the winter chill is with mulled wine (called “forralt bor” in Hungarian).
You will usually witness vendors stirring large vats or barrels full of this inside-warming goodness, and each vendor has a different way of making mulled wine (attempt to try all the vendors at your own risk). While traditional mulled wine is usually red, you will also find white mulled wine options. The wine is usually kissed with cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and other holiday-esque spices, and some even contain slices of fruit.
Photo: Hello Vidék
Just as Hungarians have a specialty beverage to help make braving the winter elements a little more bearable they also have a beverage that epitomizes summer in Eastern Europe. Summers in Hungary can get rather steamy and if, like most Hungarians, you want to enjoy the months of warm, sunny weather then you’ll want an adult drink that can keep you feeling refreshed.
Enter Fröccs, or wine spritzer. Middle-shelf white and rose wines are mixed with a soda water to provide a light, airy drink that can still pack a punch but doesn’t feel heavy. It’s bubbly, fruity and can revive you after a day spent picnicking on Margaret Island. Check out our fun fröccs quiz and find out about many type of fröccs based on wine and soda water ratio!