Discover fascinating facts about Portugal’s traditional sweet cherry liquor.

See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine April 2017

Picture by Rosino

Morello cherries, alcohol & loads of sugar

  • Those are basically the three things you need for ginja. Infuse the sour ginja berries (fruits of the Prunus cerasus austere) in aguardente, add plenty of sugar and leave this for a couple of months. Other ingredients like cinnamon or vanilla might be added as well, but with Morello cherries, Portuguese brandy and sweetness you’ve got a pretty good base.
  • Whereas the berries for Portugal’s other well-known liquor, Medronho mainly come from the Algarve and Alentejo, ginja berries are predominantly found in the Óbidos region.


  • The legend goes that ginja was first made by Francisco Espinheira, a Galician friar of the Church of Santo António in Lisbon, who founded the city’s Ginjinha Espineira bar back in 1840. The drink soon became pretty popular and is also called ginjinha.
  • Just like Licor Beirão that was originally intended as a medicine, in the old days people thought ginha would cure all kinds of illnesses and regularly gave it to their children.

Com or sem?

  • No, not with or without alcohol or sugar, they’re talking about the cherries here. When ordering a ginja, you might be asked ‘com o sem?’, as the aguardente infused berries remain in the bottom of the bottle. The traditional way is to have one or two Morello cherries with your shot of ginja.
  • When in Lisbon, visit one of the special ginjinha bars that only sell ginha in plastic cups, for about a euro apiece. No ginjinha bar in sight? The sweet liquor can also be bought in normal bars, shops and restaurants all over Portugal.

Eat the cup

  • In the medieval town of Óbidos, ginja is served in a small edible chocolate cup. Think a Mon Chéri praline, but 17 times better. Planning to visit Óbidos and give this a try? Do so during the yearly chocolate festival.
  • The combination chocolate and cherry liquor might seem like the most logical one. However, some Portuguese, like Marisa Dias Antunes, pair the drink with sardines and insist the fatty and salty fish highlights the sour in the ginjinha.


See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine April 2017

Posted in Food, Typical Portugal.