It’s easier to grab ten stars with one hand, make the sun go cold, or reduce the earth to glue than to find ginjinha of such virtue.
That verse can be read at the counter of Ginjinha Espinheira, which was opened in 1840 by a Galician of that name and has remained more or less as it was and maintained a loyal and frequent clientele ever since. The workers at the counter don’t have time to be bored. If they’re not serving ginjinha then they are engaged in conversation with the wide range of people who show up as customers. They are all served with the same skill and kindness:
“With or without (cherries)?” is the question they all ask before pouring. That is, indeed, the most difficult dilemma the customer will face in this shop – the rest is very straightforward. The place is honest and simple: Everyone comes here for one thing, a desire that is confirmed by the painted glass in many colours featuring short popular verses – some humorous, others vulgar – and constant reminders of the virtues of the beverage on sale: GINJINHA WINNER OF GOLD MEDAL!
At the door one can read up on the history of the beverage that brings so many visitors from around the world to the shop: the recipe was created by a monk who came up with the idea – God knows where he got the inspiration – of fermenting cherries in brandy, adding sugar, water and cinnamon.
The liqueur was once produced in the nearby Rua Damasceno Monteiro but production has since moved to Arruda dos Vinhos, where some 150,000 litres are produced annually, almost all of it for domestic consumption and 10% for export, mostly to the United States. In addition to ginjinha, the shop also serves own-brand capilé, a drink distilled from maidenhair ferns, in an Art Nouveau-inspired bottle, bagaço (grape pomace brandy), and other drinks and cigarettes. Together with its neighbour “Sem Rival”, it introduced the sale of ginjinha at the counter into the logic of local commerce. The habit caught on, so much that it is now very common in the whole city. As both these shops are somewhat limited in terms of space, their way of serving customers promotes the extension of the shop space on to the street, creating on Largo de São Domingos an atmosphere of its very own by day and by night, glass by glass.