The best independent guide to Lisbon
The best independent guide to Lisbon
Ginja is a sweet cherry liqueur that originated in Lisbon, and the small "A Ginjinha" bar is the traditional home of the drink.
The tiny A Ginjinha bar, has standing room only and provides you the opportunity to sample this wonderfully strong and sweet alcoholic drink.
The drink Ginja is based around aguardente (a very strong distilled alcohol), which has been infused with Ginja cherries (Morello Cherries) and sweetened with vast amounts of sugar. The shot of Ginja is served straight, with the choice of either an alcohol-laden cherry or not.
A shot of Ginja will make you forget any aches or pains you have…
The Portuguese are incredibly fond of this drink, as it was a "grand-parent" wonder cure for all manner of illnesses, and this love of the drink has been passed onto the younger generations.
The A Ginjinha bar originally opened in 1840, and has been run by the same family for five generations - if you want a taste of authentic Portugal then there is no better place!
Related articles: Tour of the Baixa district
The A Ginjinha bar at the start of day,
but by lunch time theres always a social crowd !
The A Ginjinha bar is also known as Ginjinha Espinheira bar (named after the owner), and is tucked in a row of shops just off Rossio plaza. It is easy to spot the bar as there is always a crowd of semi-inebriated tourists and Portuguese stood around outside, as there is no space inside!
A shot of Ginja costs €1.50, and although it's unlikely to cure many illnesses, it is a great addition to a day of sightseeing!
There are two variants of the Ginja, 'com' or 'sem', with or without cherries. As the cherries have been soaked in the liquor, they give an additional kick to the drink. The special Ginjinha cherries are Morello Cherries or more commonly known as Sour Cherries.
The miniature Ginjinha Espinheira bar remains busy from the moment it opens in the morning until the last person staggers home, attracting both tourists and Portuguese alike. Ginja is the shortened name of Ginjinha.
There is only one drink on sale in the A Ginjinha…
The first person to produce and sell Ginjinha in Lisbon was Francisco Espinheira. A similar cherry liqueur had been served for many centuries in Portugal, but it was exclusively for the upper classes, as it was expensive and time-consuming to make, being fermented directly from the cherries.
A friar based in the Igreja de Santo Antonio church, suggested to Espinheira that a similar tasting drink could be produced by infusing the cherries with aguardente and masking the pungent alcohol taste with sugar and cinnamon. This process reduced the time and cost, and was an instant success with Lisbon's residents.
During the early 20th century, a small shot of the drink was given to children as a cure to many minor illnesses (mainly to send the children to sleep!), and today the older generation have a nostalgia for the drink.
The A Ginjinha is a popular hangout for older Portuguese
Two rival Ginjinha producers soon started up in Lisbon after Espinheira, and their bars are within staggering distance of A Ginjinha. Literally on the opposite side of the road to A Ginjinha is Ginjinha Sem Rival (Ginjinha Without Rivals), which opened in 1890.
Down the Rua de Barros Queirós is the Ginjinha Rubi, which started in 1931. All three bars sell their own version of Ginjinha, and are tiny, social and immensely fun.
Ginja of Obidos, is a very similar drink but produced in the pretty town of Obidos, and is widely sold (and marketed) throughout Portugal.
Our opinion: While in Lisbon, support the traditional bars by drinking there, and then take a bottle Ginja of Obidos home as a gift!
Related articles: Obidos town guide
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