Lisboa is dotted with several bars specialising in ginginha – the morello cherry brandy.
Ginginha from a bottle is available in most bars, but around Rossio in Lisboa are several bars serving draught ginginha from the decanter.
Traditionally, ginginha should be drunk in a single gulp, like shooters in American bars. However, the drink’s peculiar flavour is best appreciated with modest sips: it is said to be good for the chest and digestion.
Ginginha is a pungent liquor, sweet but not sugary, with a slow burning fuse that’s only beginning when it warms the belly. It is made by steeping the bitter morello cherries in a mixture of aguardente (colourless brandy) and sugar. The result – a deep red liquor varies from 23% to 25% proof alcohol.
The bars specialising in ginginha serve it “com” (with) or “sem” (without) the morello cherries. They have a surprising but not unpleasant bitter taste that kills some of the sweetness of the drink in the mouth.
The most famous bar selling ginginha is A Ginginha, in the Largo de São Domingos, to the right of the theatre Dona Maria II. It is said to have opened in 1840, though the painted panels extolling the virtues of the drink are much more recent, probably dating from the 1920s or 1930s.
Twenty yards along the Rua de Barros Queiros, to the left of the bar and on the right side of the street, stands Ginginha – Rubi. Another bar selling the same company’s brand is Ginjinha Sem Rival, about 20 yards from A Ginjinha, on the left side up the pedestrian-only Rua das Portas de Santo Antão. The bar is no wider than its doorway. Further up the road at number 61 is the Ginjinha Popular.
Another ginjinha bar, Rubi – A Melhor Ginja (Rubi the best morello cherry) is on the right side at the bottom of the Elevador de Gloria, in the Avenida da Liberdade, in the Restauradores area.