Drinking My Way Through Transylvania

What is it that makes people want to take you on a tour of their house? You’re there for a party or something and the next thing you know they’re ushering you around as if you’re looking to buy the place. It’s rude to decline, so you go along.

This was different in Romania, where I was genuinely curious to see people’s homes — and every tour always included an inspection of the still.

The locals are very enthusiastic about making their own hooch. Where we were travelling, in Transylvania, the people are largely ethnic Hungarians. Their the drink of choice is palincă, a type of brandy made from fruit.

They make a fermented mash — usually from plums, but you can use other fruits — which is distilled down to a clear or amber-colored elixir. Is it strong? You bet! This stuff typically clocks in at anywhere between 35 and 85 percent alcohol by volume — or 70 to 170 proof.

Not everyone is very scientific in their approach and the results are sometimes unpredictable. There’s a Hungarian word for the more robust batches: kerítésszaggató, loosely translated as “fence-ripper.”

I’m glad to say that visits to the still also included a little sampling. Like house tours, it would be terribly rude to decline — and just as the the roads we drove during our visit, some were smooth going, others an adventure.

2 responses to “Drinking My Way Through Transylvania

  1. Sooooo……
    Didya rip any fences?

  2. All through Europe (the world, for that matter) there’s a great tradition of making liquor in your basement or shed. I visited a friend in Ireland a few years ago who was making his own poitín. Lost an entire day of vacation after that party.

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