Whether you go as an Erasmus student or on any other university exchange program, part of the point of studying abroad is taking in some of the local culture. Portugal happens to be one of those countries where most of its culture just happens to be drinkable. We were cultivating vines and making wines even before we had a country! It happens, then, that we have many, many uniquely Portuguese drinks here that you won’t find anywhere else.
A thick, sweet liqueur made from sour-cherries that has supposedly been made in the centre of Portugal for over 200 years. You can drink it in a normal glass (this is the traditional way) or ask for it in a chocolate shot glass. The point is to drink first, and eat the chocolate later and it’s a bit like drinking/eating a really large Mon Chéri. Most typical cafés and a number of bars will serve Ginja, but the place we recommend is the little bar at the bottom of Rossio’s trainstation’s staircase called Ginjinha do Carmo. It’s a perfect place to stop if you’re just about to go all the way uphill for the nightlife in Bairro Alto.
Of all the local Portuguese drinks, Green Wine is the local summer favourite. You drink this slightly sparkling wine very chilled on warm days. Even though it’s called Green Wine you can commonly find it in two varieties: Red and White. The name comes from the fact that it is drunk very young. A bottle of Green Wine tends to be considerably cheaper than the other wines, so it’s very popular with many Erasmus students in Portugal. We recommend stocking up on it if you’re hosting a barbecue in the summer months. Just make sure it’s really, really cold when you’re serving it.
A lot of the local history fits into the tiny glasses that serve Port ( – or Port Wine, as the Portuguese call it). It is wine mixed with stronger alcohols, usually brandy, and this was done supposedly to make sure it wouldn’t spoil during the long voyages our sailors took around the world. It was a very, very local drink, only known by the people of Porto / Oporto (hence the name) and by our sailors. Two or three hundred years later, the French invaded Portugal and captured the city. The English came to honour the longest-lasting military alliance in history and fought back the French. In the process, they discovered Port. The strongly alcoholic, sweet but refined taste of this dessert wine soon became a big hit with the British. To this day, nearly 3 out of every 4 bottles of Port end up in the UK, making it one of the most exported Portuguese drinks. To drink it like a true Portuguese person, buy a decent bottle and keep it in the house to pour to friends who visit after dinner. Be careful, though – never overdo Port. A hangover you get from a night of Port is painful beyond your imagination.
The obligatory “drink with moderation” message. I think you should try all of these Portuguese drinks. I don’t think you should try them all at once. In all likelihood, you’ve got six months ahead of you in town and that’s plenty of time to learn the difference between Licor de Merda (literally translates to Shit Liqueur), Licor Beirão (a honeyed drink), Favaios, and Amarginha (made from Almonds). If you find yourself in the middle of Bairro Alto tonight seeing the world through Erasmus goggles, you might have gone too far. Take a break and have a beer to clear your head.
Thanks for reading this post! We hope to see you soon, coming back for more.
Did you enjoy our article about Portuguese drinks? Which ones have you tried?
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