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Journey’s into the gastronomy: Pálinka and Food

Gastronomy is a Greek word with the meaning of Epicureanism, expert knowledge of food and drinks, sophisticated enjoyment, the art of eating, and the science of the relationship between gastronomy, culture and food. Of course, the responsible and cultured consumption of pálinka fits into this circle, but this enjoyment can be enhanced by the right matching of meals and drinks. There are several examples, when it comes to match food and wine, every housewife can at least mention one recipe for cooking with wine. But with pálinka it is somewhat different. Experience has shown, that neither the matching with food, nor the cooking with it is widespread, however their variations mean a source of billions of flavours and its usage is also not complicated.


When it comes to matching, there are two basic principles : contrasting or complementing flavours. Important: whether we consider the pálinka as company or we put it even into the dish, our goal is to enhance the enjoyment. It is worth to pick one element of the food and pair the right pálinka or grape marc pálinka to it.


There are some important practical rules, when it comes to cooking with pálinka:

  • Cooking with pálinka is a long way of experimenting, it demands practice, patience, endurance and curiosity.
  • Think about pálinka like a spice, using as a flavouring ingredient in small amounts.
  • Using pálinka, compared to wine: the maindifference lies, that the spirit should be added towards to the very end, as a finishing move: when the food stopped boiling, cooking, baking or no longer gets heat. As during the heat treatment, the alcohol is evaporating, thus losing the valuable, volatile aromas of the pálinka.
  • For piquant, strongly spiced food it is not worth to push the addition of pálinka, as it will highlight the spicy, piquant, sharp character and the aroma world will not change to our expectation.
  • Adding pálinka like a final spice to soups, salads and finished food, mixing into cream soup, sprinkling to the salad.
  • With meat dishes it is worth to add pálinka to their garnish, purée, sauce, dressing, if possible, as the last element.
  • With dessert one can add pálinka into the cream, jam, syrup, sauce (avoiding here as well the high temperature).
  • Fruit, removed from the so-called bedded pálinkas or fruit, soaked, macerated in pálinka, are capable to resist the high heat temperatures, for instance quick toasting – stuffed into something – and they preserve their alcohol content and part of their aromas as well.


We can be ‘routine consumers’ or even someone, who roasts his or her own coffee, few drops of pálinka deliver new joy in the enjoyment of our favourite drink, similar as one can experiment with tea leaves of different ripeness or different roasting temperatures or with the origin of the raw material. Generally tea and coffee are consumed warm, it’s a good stage for the pálinka as well to present the several hundreds of volatile treasures. Black tea for instance can be powered up by a little (1-2 centilitres) of Williams pear pálinka. The aromas of the pear act more beautiful, if one is carefully diluting it. Adding into our coffee a Muscat based grape marc pálinka or some berry fruit pálinka, like rowan- or chokeberry, due to their marzipan character the unknown aromas of the coffee become enhanced as well. In the followings we show some food and pálinka pairings, which may assist to free our imagination and create new gastronomic experience.

Let’s not forget about the most important rule of all: everything is allowed as long as we like it!


  • Amuse Bouche – Sous -vide duck breast, confir duck gizzard with soured onion and pear jellywith Granny Smith Apple Pálinka. At this pairing we selected the pálinka to the element of the pear. The two apple-based fruits – the Williams pear’s pear jelly and the apple basis of the pálinka – support the harmony. The apple, the apple blossom and the light jasmine notes with the waxy, oily body of the pálinka harmonize with the fresh, spicy, cool mouthfeel of the pear. The rosemary supports and backs up the spiciness of the pear.
  • Risotto and Pálinka – Vanilla risotto vith chestnut, beetroot jelly, ‘fürtös’ sour cherry reduction and liquorice – with forest sour cherry pálinka. The two leading lines of the dish are the beetroot and the liquorice, their main aroma components are anise and eucalyptus, supplemented by some earthy notes. The nose of the chosen sour cherry pálinka is very diverse with almond, cinnamon, clove and freshly grated chocolate, which virtually carries all the aromas of the food, with this we are able to create a perfect explosion of flavours.
  • Chocolae mouse with coffe, white currant and chlili – with Szomolyai black cherry pálinka.  The leading aromas here are the coffee, the chocolate and the almond. The recommended pálinka for matching is an aged Szomolyai black cherry pálinka with the aromas of chocolate, vanilla, tobacco, cinnamon, black pepper, bitter almond and cherry blossom, they perfectly match with the concentrated chocolate, the dense body and the coffee character of the food, playful harmony between the warm and cold flavours.


  • ‘Furfangos’ (tricky)apple cream soup -Quince pálinka. The cream soup is made with apple, cream and spices (clove, carnation, lemon grass, salt). When it’s no longer boiling, add the quince pálinka. The sweet-sour and waxy notes of the apple are supplemented by the creaminess of the butter fat, which are rounded up and an additional excitement is added through the citrus and sweet spicy, compote like notes of the quince pálinka.
  • Tenderloin ala Pálinka Master – Tenderloin roasted in skin with potato salad, fig and honey melon jam, vegetable – Aged Grape marc pálinka from Szekszárd. The jam and the pálinka are added to the steamed and pureed vegetables, when the vegetable puree is cooled down to around 60°C – before serving. The jam supplements the vegetables’ wilder green aromas with sweetness and oiliness. It harmonizes well and delivers a true firework of flavours with the pálinka, made mainly from red grapes, which is basically full-bodied and shares aromas of chocolate, red berry fruit and oakgiven vanilla, cinnamon and clove. The multitude of fragrances support the successful match, which crown the flavours of the meat.
  • Enchanted salad. Mix of salads (lamb’s lettuce, lettuce), carrot, radish germ, dried plum, balsamic vinegar, walnut – Williams pear pálinka. Here we add the pálinka as a dressing/seasoning to the mixed salad. The pronounced floral, citrus, spicy aromas of the Williams pear with the slight spiciness of the radish germ and the oiliness of the walnut all together create the new flavours.

Csaba Pavlicsek and Endre Udó Dúl