Although climate change has had its unfortunate effects on the length, predictability, and characteristics of all four seasons, you won’t mistake June for December, not in Hungary, at least. On top of the most obvious factor that rhymes with whether, certain foods and beverages also carry a heavy workload in the distinguishing process, with mulled wine being a great example. To find the best spot to gulp down a mug of steaming, cinnamon-scented grape elixir after some holiday shopping or a stroll around the snowy city, we went on a mulled wine tasting spree in downtown Budapest.
Frisco, located between two universities, and Semmelweis, a Chewbacca-hair away from Ráday utca (Ráday Street), is a cellar pub mostly frequented by students and intellectuals. The concept’s main building block is the community itself: Frisco aims to grant a chance for self-realization within the course of a societically significant forum. The vibe is warm and homely, the interior’s cornestones are puffy sofas and brick walls, and there are magazines and board games to occupy your mind, making Frisco a great getaway nook on cold winter nights. As for the mulled wine, both its spicing and temperature are spot-on; fresh slices of apple, orange, and lemon afloat on its surface, its scent takes us back to long-forgotten Christmas Eves, while its taste reminds us of fireplaces and mountain logs. Two deciliters cost 400 HUF, while three deciliters shorten your budget by 500 HUF.
Púder Bárszínház és Galéria
Situated on busy (Ráday Street), a street famous for its collection of cafés and restaurants, – as its name suggests - is a citadel of culture and gastronomy. Its progressive, eclectic interior was created by Hungarian wizards of visual arts, and it’s not a coincidence that it resembles a stage set, for the back room will give home to a studio theatre. Apropos: if the mulled wine served at Púder was an actor, it wouldn’t make it to the A-list. It’s scorching hot, a bit sour, has the color and the scent of sangria, and it’s spicing could use a hint of fine-tuning. A deciliter costs 250 HUF, so giving it a try won’t make you go bankrupt.
Café Alibi, located in a recently refurbished area of , Egyetem tér (University Square), right next to ELTE’s Faculty of Law and Political Sciences, has been the equivalent of quality coffees and sophisticated dishes for over a decade. To attract passersby, tables with lanterns and a wooden stand offering delicious cups of caffeine and mulled wine has been set up adjacent to the coffee shop. The dark burgundy wine steaming in our cup has a citrusy scent, is made of a full-bodied red, and is ideally seasoned. A duo of deciliters costs 400 HUF, while a trio lightens your wallet by 500 HUF.
Café Alibi / Alibee Bistro (closed)
Address: 1052 Budapest, Királyi Pál utca 2.
Táskarádió can be found on the other side of Egyetem tér, and offers an entirely different vibe than its neighbour, concentrating on the sweet sixties. The retro interior is pillared by vintage toys, old photos, and other multiple-decade-old knickknacks. The music repertoire is made up of old school tracks having something in common with fast food: the more you drink, the better they get. Talking of drinking, the mulled wine has a strong orange scent and an intense cinnamon taste, is a tad too sweet, a bit thin, and way too lukewarm for our liking. Two deciliters cost 750 HUF.
Address: 1053 Budapest, 8 Papnövelde Street
Garzon, situated in the ruin pub-heavy 7th district, is a busy urban pub characterized by a trendy-infused retro interior. During the day, it is frequented by nearby ELTE PPK's (Faculty of Education and Psychology) coffee-addict students, laptop-addict twentysomethings, and once-in-a-blue-moon one-time guests. At night, Garzon comes to life, and, apart from the warming-up party people, it is crowded with bigger companies having a good time. Unfortunately, the mulled wine could give you a bad, or at least a mediocre time, since it has no distinguishable characteristics. It’s served from a thermos that looks like a barrel filled with zombie invasion-inducing chemicals, has neither a scent nor a taste, but at least it’s hot.
Photos by Christián Farkas