The Strawberry Tree produces a fruit used to make a local firewater in Portugal
Aguardente de Medronho origin story
Aguardente is a distilled spirit from Portugal. Normally, it is made using the leftovers of the wine making process (grape skins, seeds, and stems). These ingredients are distilled to make a clear alcoholic drink that packs quite a punch, much like Italy’s grappa.
In the Algarve region of Portugal, however, a different kind of Aguardente is made.
With Aguardente de Medronho, fruit from the Strawberry Tree is distilled into the clear spirit.
The Strawberry Tree is widely grown throughout the Mediterranean and into the Iberian Peninsula. In Portugal the Strawberry Tree is grown predominantly in The Algarve and Alentejo regions.
The Medronho fruit itself doesn’t have much of a flavor profile when eaten raw. It’s sweet, but that’s about it. Jams and jellies, wine, and cakes are made with Medronho. But, the most interesting use of Medronho is for distilling into Aguardente.
The first time I saw the Medronho fruit, it reminded me of Lychee, a fruit we enjoyed often when we lived in Hawaii. In fact, I thought it was Lychee. However, it’s a different fruit altogether.
Where to get Aguardente de Medronho
Bottles of Aguardente de Medronho are available all over the Algarve in almost any bottle shop. You’ll also occasionally see Aguardente de Medronho in bottle shops in other parts of the country.
One of my favorite spots to get Aguardente de Medronhoes is in Loulé at the cramped Sabores Tradicionais, located on the outside perimeter of the Mercado Municipal de Loulé.
The firewater goes down hard if you drink it straight (and lots of people do). But, the preferred method is to have a shot of Aguardente de Medronho in your coffee. Quite the wakeup! Just ask for a café com cheirinho if you want to try it.
About the Author
Brent Petersen is the Editor-in-Chief of Destination Eat Drink. He currently resides in Setubal, Portugal. Brent has written the novel “Truffle Hunt” (Eckhartz Press) and the short story collection “That Bird.” He’s also written dozens of foodie travel guides to cities around the world on Destination Eat Drink, including in-depth eating and drinking guides to Lisbon, Porto , Sintra, Monsaraz, and Batalha in Portugal. Brent’s podcast, also called Destination Eat Drink, is available on all major podcasting platforms and is distributed by the Radio Misfits Podcast Network.