The original, 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 A Ginjinha bar, also known as Ginjinha Espinheira bar, provides visitors with the opportunity to sample this wonderfully strong and sweet alcoholic drink. Ginja is based upon a fortified wine that has been infused with Ginja cherries and combined with vast amounts of sugar.
The Ginja drink is served straight, with the choice of either an alcohol laden cherry or not. 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 younger generations. Ginja is the shortened name of Ginjinha.
The Ginjinha bar lies to the east of the Teatro Nacional Doña Maria II in the Praça Dom Pedro IV square, which is more commonly known as Rossio. A shot of the sweet drink costs €1.20, and although it’s unlikely to cure many illnesses, it is a great way to start a day of sightseeing!
There are two variants of the drink of Ginja either 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.
The shop "Ginjinha do Largo de Sao Domingo's" was owned by a Galician named Espinheira and was the first bar in Lisbon to sell the beverage. Advised by a friar from the Igreja de Santo Antonio, Espinheria experimented by letting cherries ferment in brandy and then adding sugar, water and cinnamon.
The Ginjinha Espinheira bar was founded in 1840 and has been popular ever since, as the drink was sweet and inexpensive to produce. At the turn of the 20th century, a small shot of the drink was given to children as a cure to many minor illnesses.