Budapest discovers its own gin
Surrounded by Communist-era housing blocks and office buildings, a new venture focuses on producing Budapest’s very own gin, Opera. With a visitor centre and a stylish bar, this part distillery, part drinking destination is where a newly blended tipple is being processed in special copper equipment, all in the name of superior sipping.
A nation renowned for its all-purpose pálinka brandy, Hungary is also famous for its fine-quality wines and, more recently, craft beers. Now the country has decided to ride on a new wave of popularity to produce gin, following in the footsteps of the UK, where this revered spirit has been elevated to new heights.
Called the Első Magyar Gin Manufaktúra (First Hungarian Gin Manufactory), the plant has been set up in District IV and is committed to supplying Budapest with a drink whose attributes align with local culture and cuisine.
Found in a courtyard behind a vast industrial gate are the distillery and bar, where gin maker Bálint Dámosy, co-owner of the Opera brand, conjures liquid delights. He is joined by acclaimed bartender Ferenc Varsányi, who is now also the face of Hungarian gin.
The name ‘Opera’ was inspired by the history of the Dámosy family, who lived and worked at the Hungarian State Opera House as far back as a century ago. For the past five years, Bálint has been involved in the making of gin, a tipple gaining ever more prestige around Hungary. Bálint’s visits to renowned gin distilleries across the UK provided the professional guidelines to setting up his Budapest firm.
Designing the bar was carried out in co-operation with Varsányi. Evoking the atmosphere of the 1920s, this in-house hostelry fuses modern elements with old-world charm: the crystal chandelier comes from England, while the Empire-style cabinet augments the distinct design. For the time being, visits are by appointment only. The elegant Opera logo, a marriage of Art Nouveau and Art Deco, is the work of the local Graphasel Design Studio.
But what about the gin itself? A combination of spices leaves a lasting taste on the palate in its flavour, the garden angelica, coriander seed, liquorice, grapefruit peel, Vietnamese lemongrass, aniseed, lavender, juniper berries and cubeb. Poppy seed augments the ingredients, giving the Opera brand a local touch, as many Hungarian dishes contain this key component.
The end result, similar to London Dry, will be introduced at international events, including the Vienna Gin Festival in May and London’s Junipalooza in June.
In Hungary’s capital, this Budapest blend is already available at cocktail bar Hotsy Totsy, where gin and tonic is made to perfection using the Opera brand, a success story slowly unfolding on our palate.
District IV. Kiss Ernő utca 3A