Can Cocktails Be Made With Pálinka?
While pálinka is a spirit with a rich history deeply rooted back into the middle-ages, it is still completely undiscovered as a cocktail base. Even though the very characteristics of Palinka make it the perfect ingredient to create well-balanced amazing fruity cocktails: Pálinka due to its very nature – having been made only from fruit - is perfect for cocktails and long drinks. Its versatility has an endless, still unlocked potential to create cocktails or use it in mixed drinks.
Hungarians as a whole prefer pure pálinka, but others, including many in the U.S. like variety in their liquors. This lead to pálinka cocktails becoming more and more popular. And we have to admit, after having sampled a few, that they are really nice!
The aim with Palinka cocktails is to use the full potential of the underlying fruit, in order to effortlessly emphasize the complex floral and fruity aromas. As a general principle, dilution will mute the pungent alcohol flavour down, while adding citrus juice and sugar will further enhance the underlying fruit flavour and emphasize the more complex aromas of the drink. Palinka has a more pungent alcohol aftertaste due to the filteration method compared to other grain-based spirits. Because of this, when Palinka is used in cocktails, an approx. 15% less measure is sufficient to use, for example if a recipe asks for a 2 oz spirit, 1 3⁄4 oz Palinka is sufficient to replace it, same applies for 1 oz to use 0.8 oz (approx. 3⁄4 oz) instead. Palinka in general - regardless of what fruit it was made of - has a very floral and fruity aroma profile compared to other spirits, therefore the decreased measure will not negatively impact the overall cocktail profile in terms of losing any aromas or fruity flavours.
A good starting point for creating Palinka based cocktails is to use classic, few-ingredient cocktails, replace the base spirit and tweak the other ingredients around to create the perfect balance.
Palinka can be used extremely well in cocktails, there is no need to add too many ingredients or other liquors to it as pálinka already has a very strong fruity character, it needs to be complemented only, not completely changed. Bitters can complement the flavour profile of Palinkas, however they should be added with caution, as they can adversely affect the fresh fruity aroma profile of the Palinka. Angostura bitter in general is too overpowering, hence Orange bitter or Peychaud’s bitter would be the preferred options. Probably the most favourable way to use pálinka is in highballs or in sours in order to make the most out of the fruity characters. Wine, or fortified white wine, (vermouths mainly) are complementing pálinka very well by bringing a slight bitterness and spicy aroma and diluting the spirit down to bring out the more complex flavours. Red and sweet fortified wines however sometimes have a more bitter flavour profile that can overpower the floral and fruity pálinka aromas, such as apricot or pear. However, these work well with plum, sour cherry or berries pálinkas.
Courtesy of Szabolcs Balasko (House of Barka)