It’s ubiquitous, strong and sweet, beloved by most Portuguese, and enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. It’s believed that Portugal produces upwards of 150,000 liters of ginjinha annually. All but 10 percent, which is exported to the US, is consumed in Portugal!
While available in quiosques and cafes around Lisbon, the tiny A Ginjinha, a family operation since 1840, run by the fifth-generation, is where you’ll see folks old and young gathering outside with small cups brimming with the sticky sweet elixir. Across the road on the other side of the street is Ginjinha Sem Rival, which opened in 1890, equally tiny and equally delicious.
No matter where you sip your ginja, you’ll be faced with a decision, elas ou sem elas. With or without a boozy macerated cherry (careful, they have pits). Pouring the liqueur and dropping a cherry into the glass is something to behold, an art even. Pay attention!
A bit north of Lisbon, where they grow the morellos, is Óbidos, famous for their ginjinha. There you’ll have to decide whether or not you want your ginja served in a chocolate cup. If you say yes, drink up so you don’t melt the chocolate handle.
In Alcobaça, the burial place of Portugal’s Romeo and Juliette (Pedro and Inês), you’ll find Licor Ginja M.S.R. There they harvest their own morello orchards and their annual production is dependent on the yield.
The mountainous region of Serra Estrela produces a reserve ginjinha, aged two years in French oak barrels previously used for aging Scotch whiskey and wine the Douro.
And when wandering the cobblestone becos of ancient Alfama, stop and humor Ginja Grandmas: little old ladies that make their own ginjinha and sell shots from their front doors. For a euro and a few cents, it’s an experience you won’t forget. Saude!
Practice Portuguese’s Gin-Ginjinha Fizz
This delightful summer sipper is a perfect partner for a fab afternoon or sunset at any one of Portugal’s stunning viewpoints.
- 2 oz gin
- 1 oz freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- ¾ oz ginjinha
- 1 egg white
- ¼ oz simple syrup or 1 teaspoon sugar (sweeten to taste)
- sparkling water
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with the exception of the sparkling water and ice. Close tightly and shake well so the the egg white gets frothy. Open carefully and add ice. Shake again to cool the drink. Strain into a glass filled with fresh ice. Top with a splash of sparkling water and garnish with pitted cherries and/or a thin shaving of orange peel.
Relish Portugal celebrates lifestyle through food: your authentic Portuguese kitchen. This English-language food and culture magazine for Portugal lovers everywhere is a gorgeous award-winning, quarterly, online publication. Sit down with Portuguese-food-loving luminaries and celebrated artisan makers, discover traditional Portuguese towns and tastes, find recipes (Portuguese and others) that you can make at home, and settle in with our fascinating feature stories and interviews. Subscribe and relish the bounty of riches that is Portugal: relishportugal.com.
A Portugal Must: Ginjinha
Send us your comments or opinion on this article.