Most of Lisbon’s ginjinha bars are hole-in-the-wall establishments, nestled beside larger shops or cafes. In these tiny taverns, guests (sometimes no more than three or four) squeeze inside to order their coveted scarlet-red shots of sour cherry liqueur.
While Portugal is most famous for its port and sherry, ginjinha (also known simply as ginja) is a tart, lesser-known gem. Made by soaking local cherries in brandy, the drink is smooth and warming. Many city dwellers prefer to sip theirs as an aperitif or digestif.
There are many ginjinha bars dotted throughout Lisbon. Ginja Sem Rival, which has been in operation since 1890, serves homemade ginjinha. In the historic Mouraria (Moorish) neighborhood, Os Amigos da Severa serves up cherry liqueur, along with music and paraphernalia paying tribute to Lisbon singer Maria Severa. By most accounts, Severa is credited with popularizing fado, a melancholy style of Portuguese folk music, in the 19th century.
Everywhere you go, however, your options will be the same: a ginjinha com (with) or sem (without) a cherry. The latter requires a bit of skill on the part of the bartender, as working out one cherry from the bottle at a time can be difficult. Be sure to savor the flavor of the alcohol-soaked fruit for a little bit before spitting out the pit.
Where to Try It
Ginja Sem RivalR. Portas de Santo Antão 7, Lisboa, 1150-268, Portugal
One of Lisbon's oldest ginjinha bars, this establishment makes its liqueur in-house.
Os Amigos da SeveraRua do Capelão, n. 32, Lisbon, Portugal
In addition the the scarlet bottles of ginjinha, the tavern is filled with photos, posters, and of course music devoted to singer Maria Severa. There are live fado performances at midnight.