On our second day in the wonderful city of Budapest, we stumbled into the annual Palinka Festival.
What is palinka, you ask? Simply put, it is really strong Hungarian schnapps.
This annual festival is relatively new. Many of the Hungarians we spoke with didn't think it was a big deal, and treated palinka like something your crazy uncle would bust out the night before a family wedding. He would giggle with delight when everyone cringes as their throats burn and smirk the following morning when the groom tries to act like he isn't hungover.
However, we found there are a TON of craft palinka distillers. Their products range in intensity and flavor. Some are barrel aged like whiskey, some are straight as moonshine. Hungary is evidently trying to elevate the reputation of palinka, and I came away with respect for it.
For around $5, you buy a tasting glass. Each stall sells samples for $2 - 3 each. It was an affordable way to try a few flavors and styles. I enjoyed a smooth honey-walnut and a golden aged palinka. The predominant traditional flavor is plum, and like Austrian schnapps, flavors like cherry, pear, and apricot are very popular.
If you find yourself in Budapest in May, stop by and give yourself a quick education on the national liquor of Hungary.