Top 10 Portuguese Spirits and Liqueurs
In the past few years, Portugal has established itself as the perfect destination for wine lovers. But did you know that Portugal is also home to a wide selection of unique spirits and liquors? Find out which are the most popular...
Macieira was created in 1885 and is the most consumed brandy in Portugal. It’s based on natural herbal extracts, smothered wine, oak and caramel extracts. This drink offers a mix of fruity aromas, such as vanilla, peach, honey and cherry, and its texture resembles liqueur. Macieira, with its fruity flavour and wide mix of extracts, provides a unique and memorable taste!
2. Moscatel de Setubal
Moscatel de Setúbal is an aromatic and sweet wine, with an alcohol content between 17º and 18º, and an intense colour that varies from light topaz to burnt topaz. There are two types of Moscatel de Setúbal, the white and the "roxo", which is rarer. The traditional designations "Moscatel de Setúbal" and "Roxo" are reserved for DOC Setúbal wines made with at least 67% of the grape varieties Moscatel Galego Roxo and Moscatel de Setúbal, which are produced in the municipalities of Palmela, Setúbal and part of Sesimbra.
This wine is usually served cold and as an appetizer. A small lemon peel can be added to the drink to play with the taste a bit more.
Ginjinha is a Portuguese dark red liqueur made from sour cherries. It’s served in a small shot glass or edible chocolate cups (depends on the place you’re visiting). Ginjinha can be found in restaurants and cafés all over Portugal, but it’s especially common in the Silver Coast towns of Alcobaça and Óbidos.
This drink has a sweet but powerful cherry flavour! We recommend you try Ginjinha served in edible chocolate cups — a combination of flavours that is a wonderful experience for both liqueur and chocolate lovers!
4. Licor Beirão
Licor Beirão is a very famous drink in Portugal, that can be found in almost every Portuguese restaurant and café. It is produced with a wide range of plants, such as mint, cinnamon, cardamom and rosemary, which creates a complex and sweet taste. It’s usually enjoyed with ice cubes and can also be used in cocktails, such as:
Morangão: Simply mix 7 strawberries, lemon juice and crushed ice with 6cl of Licor Beirão.
Caipirão: Inspired by the Brazilian drink "caipirinha", this cocktail includes 1/2 lime, 6cl of Licor Beirão and crushed ice.
“Poncha” or “Poncha da Madeira” is a traditional drink from the Portuguese island of Madeira. It’s produced with an alcoholic drink called “Rum da Madeira”, made from the best selection of carefully distilled sugar canes. Other ingredients are usually added to this drink, including oranges and lemons, that when combined create a true harmony of aromas and a unique taste.
The recipe of this traditional drink from Madeira has been passed along many generations. As a result, its production does not depend solely on its ingredients, but also on the experience and expertise of the people combining all the ingredients and adjusting the right proportions.
6. Porto Tonic
Porto Tonic is a mix between white Porto wine and tonic water. This drink is quite similar to a gin & tonic, the main difference being the lower alcohol content.
The recipe is very simple: fill a glass with white Porto, a small lemon peel, a few ice cubes, and, finally, tonic water. Some people also like to add a mint leaf and lime zest to give it a final touch. This is a simple, tasty and refreshing drink, very suited for those wonderful Portuguese sunny days!
7. Amêndoa Amarga
Amêndoa Amarga is one of the most popular liqueurs in Portugal. It’s produced in many regions of Portugal, but Amêndoa Amarga from the Algarve is, by far, the most desired.
This liqueur is usually served after lunch or dinner, with a small lemon peel and ice, and it’s a common alternative to Porto wine or Moscatel de Setúbal. But be aware: “amêndoa amarga” means “bitter almond” in English, and as the name hints, this drink is not exactly sweet…
8. Aguardente Bagaceira and Medronho
The bagaceira brandy, known as “aguardente bagaceira” or simply “bagaceira”, is obtained by distilling the fermented mash of the solid parts of the grape that remain after the juice is extracted for wine production. The skins, seeds and even small branches of grapes contain within them essential oils that give bagaceira its typical aromas and flavours, which are very appreciated in Portugal.
As in wine production, to produce a good bagaceira the raw material must be the best possible, as well as the choice of the most suitable grape varieties and type of distillation used. The final result is a strong spirit (with an alcohol content usually around 35% and 54%) that is usually served as a digestive after a meal or a coffee. It has a very strong taste, so if you’re not a regular alcohol drinker, this might not be your favourite Portuguese spirit!
Another variety of aguardente is “aguardente de medronho”, a traditional fruit brandy made from the fruit of the arbutus.
This fruit, which in Portuguese is called “medronho”, can be easily found in the hills of the Algarve and Central Portugal. It produces a brandy with a very high percentage of alcohol (usually between 40 and 55%) and a very strong and characteristic flavour.
9. Singeverga liqueur
Singeverga is the only liqueur in Portugal still produced by monks, based on an ancient formula. The Portuguese Benedictine monks of the monastery of Santo Tirso, in northern Portugal, have been producing Singeverga since 1945, by direct distillation of various spices and herbs. The monastic tradition of producing homemade liqueur combines aromatic myrrh, bitter almond, vanilla, saffron, cinnamon and nutmeg with aromatic plants.
10. Madeira wine
Although Madeira is a wine, it is not consumed as your typical wine, but rather as a digestive wine or even as an apéritif!
Produced in the hillsides and cellars of Madeira Island, this tasty and strong wine is known for its longevity: it can be found in excellent condition hundreds of years after its original production!
Historically associated with the production of Port Wine, Portugal has been steadily establishing itself in recent decades as one of the world's best wine producers...
Don’t forget to try these Portuguese spirits and liqueurs during your next visit to Portugal. If you are currently living here, there are plenty of other regional alcoholic beverages to discover and countless possibilities of combining different flavours with traditional Portuguese cuisine, pastry and, of course, coffee!