drinks & cocktails

Portuguese Liqueurs – A Beginners Guide

Portuguese Liqueur Licor Beirao

There are some pretty fabulous liqueurs on offer in Portugal. Perfect for enjoying after a meal, or indeed just for the sake of it!

Friendly restaurateurs sometimes hand out a free glass of something Portuguese after a meal, but it is usually port or aguardente (Portuguese “fire water.”) You have to hunt down or request some of the other treats. As far as I have seen, even here in the touristy Algarve, not a lot is done to publicise some of these enjoyable drinks.

Amendoa is a sweet almond liqueur, rather like the Italian amaretto but lighter and lower in alcohol. Great with a dessert, it is perfect straight from the bottle but, for me, is especially good poured over ice and lemon. When we celebrated a recent birthday in the Quatro Aguas restaurant in Tavira, we were given a cocktail which included amendoa shaken with fresh lemon juice which was rather special—the sweet and sour blending together wonderfully.

Ginja (Ginjinha) is a brandy-based cherry liqueur, sometimes served complete with booze soaked sour cherries which have been steadily increasing in alcohol content whilst in the

Portuguese Liqueur Licor Beirao

Portuguese Liqueur Licor Beirao

bottle. Great for shots, ginginha is best enjoyed as the sun goes down in Lisbon, where it can be purchased from tiny bars lined with Portuguese tiles, barely big enough to accommodate 3 people. The drink is served is small paper cups and enjoyed amongst the crowds outside, consisting of a mixture of tourists, locals and resident nutcases.

Licor Beirao is quite a unique herby-tasting little number with a slight note of aniseed. However, it is light and fresh and nothing like a Greek ouzo taste.

Medronho is a very potent spirit brewed from the arbutus (wild strawberry) tree. Medronho can be fiercely potent and is available in variations ranging from unlabelled homebrew bottles, moonshine style, to connoisseur tipples at scarily high-prices. If you have the opportunity to try it, definitely have a go, but leave the car keys at home! I have been told that Monchique, in the west of the Algarve is THE place to go for medronho, but I have yet to buy any from there – watch this space!

This is a starting point but there are plenty more Portuguese liqueurs to choose from. Gourmet food shops around the Algarve are a good place to start. They often stock small-batches of liqueurs from local producers, including some made from local oranges.

The best part? These drinks are super-cheap. A bottle of amendoa in the supermarket comes in at less than €4 euros – so there’s no reason not to have a whole range in the drinks cabinet. Saude!