There's plenty of research supporting the idea that the anticipation of a happy event can make us as happy as the experience itself. Which means researching all the food I plan to eat before I go on a trip is a legitimate way to prolong those holiday highs.
Nevertheless, the best part of eating (or in this case drinking) in a foreign land is still that unexpected discovery. In Portugal, that discovery was made in a little fortified town called Obidos an hour or so out of Lisbon. A town I'd never heard of until I was actually inside its ramparts, but one anybody in Portugal would immediately associate with one thing - Ginjinha.
I'm a long-time fan of Portugal's sweet wines, and port, moscatel and madeira
are among my favourite post-dinner tipples. But when it comes down to a choice
between a glass of port or a glass of ginjinha after a meal, I will almost always opt for this syrupy-sweet cherry liqueur.
Made from ginja berries (morello cherries) soaked in aguardente (grape brandy) with sugar and cinnamon (and sometimes a few other secret spices) this bright red liqueur is typically drunk from a tiny shot glass, all-in-one or slowly sipped like port.
In Obidos, ginjinha - or simply ginja - is often served in little chocolate cups (yes it tastes as good as it sounds) and one of the most famous ginja producers in Portugal 'Oppidum' now makes a chocolate-infused version - that's definitely right at the top of my wish list during my planned trip to Portugal this summer.
Although it works well as a digestif, the Portuguese drink ginja all day long and I can definitely see why. The country - especially Lisbon and the Estremadura region of which Obidos is a part - is dotted with little hole-in-the-wall bars that serve ginja. One of the oldest and most famous of these is A Ginjinha at Largo de São Domingos in the Rossio area of Lisbon. It makes its own ginjinha reputed to be one of the best in Portugal. It's apparently tiny with no seats - just a counter to order a drink - and I'm going to keep my eyes peeled for it during my next visit to the city.
Ginjinha can be ordered com ginja (with a berry at the bottom) or sem ginja (without the berry). The berries are juicy from having soaked in all that yummy liqueur - although getting them out of the bottom of the bottle isn't as easy as it looks.
When my cousins had their very first chocolate-filled cups of ginja, the barman told them they could have the shots for free if they could drink the ginja without
letting out an 'aaahhh' of approval. Of course, the combination of the power of suggestion and the delicious drink meant that the sighs of satisfaction left their
lips and they had to pay for their drinks. Still, ginja is one of the cheapest and tastiest drinks you will find in Portugal and I think everyone who drinks it will agree that every last drop is worth every cent.
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