Pálinka is a traditional Hungarian fruit brandy. It is most often made from various kinds of fruit; the most common varieties are made from plums, pears, apricot, or peaches. It may also be made from apples, cherries, mulberries, or quince.
The word pálinka derives from the Slavonic stem "páliť", to burn. In Hungarian the word is most probably of Slovak origin, as "Tótpálinka" (literally Slovak pálinka) and it was used in Hungary to refer to alcoholic drinks derived from wheat. The word pálinka became widespread in Hungary in the seventeenth century, but it still referred to distillates made from grain. The meaning was later transferred to fruit brandies, while wheat distillates were referred to as "crematura". Distillation became a privilege of the landlords, which led to the proliferation of home stills. Law forbade the use of bread-stuffs for distillation, hence the use of fruits. Private distilleries and factories started to appear towards the end of the eighteenth century, which led to legislation and to the introduction of a Pálinka tax.
Pálinka has an important role in traditional celebrations and social occasions. A traditional Hungarian greeting is "Pálinkás jó reggelt!" which means "Good morning with pálinka!".
There are different types of Pálinká, including:
- Kisüsti (literally "Small pot, cauldron"), which is a double-distilled pálinka made in a copper pot not exceeding a volume of 1000 litres.
- Érlelt (Aged) is a pálinka aged for at least 6 months in a wooden cask smaller than 1000 litres, or for at least 12 months in a wooden cask of 1000 litres or above.
- Ó (Old) is a pálinka aged for at least 12 months in a wooden cask smaller than 1000 litres, or for at least 24 months in a wooden cask of 1000 litres or above.
- Ágyas ("bedside") is a pálinka aged for at least 3 months together with fruits. The fruits can be of the same sort used to obtain the distillate or of another sort. To 100 liters of pálinka at least 10 kg of ripe fruits have to be added.
- Törköly (Grape pálinka, also Törkölypálinka) is an alcoholic beverage made from grapes. One of the oldest types of pálinka, it helps digestion, and is usually consumed in small quantities after meals.
A popular saying in Hungary says: what can be used to prepare jam can also be used to produce pálinka (clearly, for a fruit to be suitable for jam production it has to contain some sugar). This saying suggests that pálinka can be made from a large variety of fruits, and indeed it is made from most of the fruits available in Hungary.
The most common pálinkas are made from apricots, pears, and plums. Other fruits that are often used are sour cherries, apples, mulberries and quince. Nevertheless, pálinka made from chestnuts is also available.
Barack (pronounced "baratsk") is a type of pálinka made of, or flavored with, apricots. The word barack is a collective term for both apricot (in Hungarian sárgabarack, lit. "yellow-peach") and peach (in Hungarian őszibarack, lit. "autumn-peach"). Pálinka made of pomace (törkölypálinka) is very popular as well, and is a typical drink in the wine producing regions of the country.
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The history of pálinka, www.palinkaoldal.hu