Intoxicating Nectar – Sampling Medronho in the Algarve

While you are traveling in the Algarve, don’t miss an opportunity to try the traditional home brewed spirit which is known as Medronho.

This potent wild berry liquor certainly packs a punch and it is deeply interwoven into the fabric of traditional Portuguese life. Finding a quiet and peaceful farm in the rural Algarve where Medronha is made and sampling this drink with close friends is part of the adventure of discovering this region.

What is Medronho?

This traditional liquor is a very strong traditional fruit brandy which is made in Portugal. The sweet fruits used to make this spirit are from the Medronho tree which is also known as the strawberry tree. These wild trees grow on the arid soil of the hot and sunny regions of the inner rural Algarve. The berries are a little larger than a cherry and they have a granular surface with a few small seeds inside.

Medronho is not commercially produced and these wild fruits are mostly collected by local farmers by hand. They are processed privately into the liquor. Authentic Medronho cannot be bought in the supermarket or online, it must be purchased directly from a farmer at his villa in the Algarve. Although these local farmers don’t have a distilling license, the local authorities allow them to distill this spirit anyway to keep this traditional Portuguese drink alive.

Traditionally, this beverage was drunk by ordinary people such as fishermen and farmers, who often sweetened it with honey and called it Brandymel. From a drink for the poor working classes it has now become a foodie favourite and a sought after drink by demanding tasters from around the world.

The full name of the spirit is Aquardente de Medronhos which translates as “Firewater”. You will understand the name when you take your first sip, as it gives a warm burning sensation as the strong alcohol travels down the throat. Most bottles of Medronho contain around 48% alcohol! This is why it is served sparingly in shot-glass sized portions.

Tips for Trying Medronho in the Algarve

If you plan on tasting this beverage during your visit, here are some helpful tips:

  • Check with some of the companies which offer rustic jeep safari tours through the rural Algarve, as some of them stop at farms which produce the drink and offer a tasting.
  • It is said that one of the best places in the Algarve to find Medronho is in Monchique, which is a village to the west of the region. Monchique has approximately 70 medronho distilleries which produce an estimated 15,000 litres per year. In fact, a shop has just opened up in the town where you can buy the drink.
  • Silves is another village where you might be able to find Medronho.
  • Keep an eye out for the trees while you are in the rural Algarve, so that you can see where the fruit for the drink comes from. They look like evergreen shrubs with small strawberry-like fruits on them.
  • When you are trying the drink for the first time, keep in mind that it is very strong! Only drink a small amount at first and savour it. It is nearly 50% alcohol so it will get you intoxicated very quickly, especially if you are not used to strong liquor.
  • If you have the opportunity, be sure to bring home a bottle of this delicious spirit home to your friends and family so that they can get a little taste of this Algarve tradition.

These are just a few tips to remember when sampling Medronho in the Algarve. Have fun and enjoy your trip.

When you are staying in the Algarve at Monte da Quinta resort, make sure to take the opportunity to try the traditional fruit brandy known as Medronho.

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