One brand of ginginha.

Ginginha: Sour Cherries on Father’s Day

Sipping ginginha.

Sipping ginginha.

You may not know it, but March 19 is Father’s Day in Portugal.

We did not know it either, until we entered a patron-free one-woman bar near the central train station.

The proprietress–in her late twenties I suspect–hurriedly and sheepishly hung up the phone.

I ask her a question in my haltering Portuguese, but hash up the key word because I’ve read it but never heard it pronounced before:


“You would like to try the cherry liquor?” Her english halters less than my Portuguese.


Ginginha–pronounced zeenzeenha, and a specialty of this bar–is made by soaking sour Morello cherries in Portuguese firewater, aguardiente, with sugar and spices, the most common being cinnamon.

The taste? The cherry flavor is quite lovely and clear. The spices make it dance an exotic dance on your tongue. The sweetness is significant, but no cloying. If god had chosen to revisit earth with the express intent of correcting the mistake of cherry cough syrup by supplanting it with high art, ginginha would be the result.

There are rumors that god does visit ginginha bars, dressed as a tattered artist or a Fado musician, just to sip this delightful beverage. The question about whether god drinks ginginha before or after a meal is unclear and the Portuguese fight over this idea.

Based on my limited experience, I would suggest it as a digestif rather than as an apéritif.

“Do you have this holiday in America?” The proprietress is still sheepish for keeping us waiting. “Father’s Day?”

“Yes, we celebrate it in June.”

“It is today in Portugal. My parents have returned to their village in the north of Portugal after working their whole lives in Lisbon. I was born here so I stay here. I called him to wish him well on Father’s Day.”

“What is his name?”


We hoisted our glasses of ginginha in honor of Manuel, and all the sorely missed fathers of Portugal.

At the bottom of a tasty glass,