Nestled along the cobbled streets of Lisbon or hidden in the quaint alleys of Obidos, Portu-gal, there’s a sweet secret waiting to be discovered – Ginja Liqueur or also known a Ginjinha. Ginja or Morello cherries are infused with liqueur to make this sweet, refreshing spirit. If you have travelled Portugal, you can never miss a Ginjinha Bar, or one should certainly make this a place to visit. The experience will certainly thrill any traveller and sometimes be quite addictive and refreshing as a single shot will set you back no more than a euro or two.
A Taste of History
Ginja liqueur’s roots trace back to medieval ages, when Portuguese monks began experimenting with macerating sour cherries in brandy to create a medicinal tonic. Over time the recipe has evolved or maybe refined but most recipes will always have cherries, liqueur (brandy and sugar) and cinnamon with a varying secret of quantity and herbs or spice.
The Production Process
The heart of Ginja liqueur is its main ingredient: sour cherries, known as “ginja” in Portuguese. The cherries are carefully selected and macerated in brandy or aguardiente, a strong Portuguese spirit. During the maceration process, the cherries impart their vibrant colour and fruity flavours to the alcohol. The sweetening process follows, as sugar and sometimes other flavourings like cinnamon and cloves are added to balance the liqueur’s bitterness. Once the ingredients have melded together in harmony, the liqueur is filtered and bottled, preserving its vibrant ruby-red colour and the unique blend of flavours.
Flavours of Portugal
The flavour is a delightful balance between sweet and tart, with the richness of the cherries complemented by the warmth of the alcohol and the subtle nuances of spices. The taste experience is both smooth and aromatic, leaving a lingering sweetness on the palate that entices you for another. Ginja liqueur can be served as an aperitif or an after dinner digestif, served in a small, thimble-sized glass known as a ‘Ginjinja cup’. One can also indulge some ginja liqueur in edible chocolate cups. Besides there also some wonderful cocktails like a Pink Mimosa, Sangria or Ginja tonic to name a few.
Traditions and Customs
Ginja liqueur is not just about its taste; it’s also a cherished tradition in Portugal. In Lisbon, locals and tourists alike flock to the historic Ginjinha bar, which has been serving Ginja since the 1840s. In Obidos, a charming historic hill-top town, Ginja is mostly served in edible chocolate cups which also hosts the famous International Chocolate Festival. And not too far from Obidos, the Festival da Ginja is hosted at Amoreira.
Unlike the world-renowned Port or wines from Portugal, the Ginja Liqueur is another gem from Portugal waiting to be discovered.