Despite the many forms of alcohol widely available and celebrated in Eastern Europe, oddly enough, Vodka is still the best known, thanks to the Russians, says The Washington Examiner. However, herbal and fruit spirits are highly popular in the rural parts of the continent. While the Czechs and the Slovaks prefer the herbal variety of liquor, such as Becherovka and Tatratea, rural Romania’s pre-dinner drinks remain completely dependent on tuica, a variation of plum brandy.
There have been many mentions of the fruit brandy throughout the years. For example, in Joseph Roth’s The Radetzky March, perhaps the best novel about Eastern Europe before World War I, the only thing a recently ennobled officer can think to do with his Slovenian peasant father is to share a glass of raki, a drink found specifically in the Balkans which is also made of distilled fruit.
Incidentally, the invention of distilling alcohol roughly coincides with the 10th-century arrival of the Hungarians in Central Europe. It is a very common joke that Arpad, the semi-mythical leader of this great Medieval migration, should have continued West, a darkly humorous reference to Hungary’s troubled history on Europe’s periphery.
Whatever the history might be, the Hungarian fruit brandy called palinka is the gift that came out of it. Village gardens produce prodigious quantities of plums, apples, peaches, and apricots, the key ingredients in palinka. It is a household staple and is readily available in every rural-based grandfather’s cellar. It is the solution to every stomach problem and is heavily prescribed by every grandmother.
Funnily enough, if you go deep enough in the Hungarian countryside, you will realise that every morning begins with a shot of palinka for people. This might seem strange, but that is how it is done.
The Hungarian land with its flat plain, rich soil, and mild climate is fantastically suited for agriculture and thus produces amazing fruit for said liquor. Palinka and all its varieties are hard liquors, though, and should be consumed with caution.