Discover fascinating facts about Portugal’s traditional fruit brandy

See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine September 2016


Strawberry tree

  • Aguardente de medronhos, aka Medronho, is made from the fruit of the medronho tree, the Arbutus Unedo. Although this translates as ‘strawberry tree’, the fruits aren’t strawberries, but look more like small lychees. The drink also doesn’t taste a lot like strawberries.
  • Medronho trees grow in the wild, especially in the northern Algarve and Alentejo. Local farmers pick the berries of the trees growing on their land and distil their own brandy at home. Producing up to 30 litres for your own use is allowed.


Make it yourself

  • From October to December pick loads of ripe berries (those are the red-orange ones). You’ll need between 7 and 10 kilos of fruit to make one litre of brandy. Put the berries into a barrel and let it ferment for 2 to 3 months, making sure to keep them humid at all times.
  • Distillation is best done the traditional way; over a low fire and by using a copper alambique as distillation device. Afterwards, test the liquid it by rubbing some on your hands. You’ve made a good Medronho if you can smell the fruit after the alcohol has evaporated.



  • The strong spirit is also known as ‘firewater’. This makes sense: ‘água ardente’ is Portuguese for ‘burning water’ and the liquid, with an alcohol content which varies between 40 and 50%, burns like hell when swallowing. Don’t believe us? Try a shot yourself.
  • Medronho is Portugal’s best-known fruit brandy. Traditionally, farmers in rural Portuguese areas would start the day with a shot of Medronho in order to ‘wake their spirits’. (Enjoy the Algarve prefers coffee).


Medronho tea

  • Because of their high pectine content, Medronho berries are also used to make jams and preserves. Rich in antioxidants, they’re viewed as good for your health. In folk medicine, the leaves are used as well; it’s believed that kidney and bladder problems could be treated by drinking tea made of Medronho leaves.


See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine September 2016

Posted in Food, Typical Portugal.