The sale of beverages at the counter is something we consider perfectly normal today, but, like everything else, it wasn’t always that way. It is difficult to say which shops starting the practice first, but we now that the ginginha selling shops were amongst the pioneers: Sem Rival, the neighbouring Espinheira and A Tendinha do Rossio, which opened in 1840. The only reason one can’t say for sure that they were the first shops to sell the drink by the glass is because the charcoal houses, which were almost all run by Galicians, also had the custom of selling wine by the glass at the counter. And many of them did not even have tables, just the counter. As the interior space in these two ginjinha shops is also limited, this form of serving the drink promoted the extension of the shop to the exterior, adding colour to Largo de São Domingos and Rua das Portas de Santo Antão with the lively presence of appreciators of the liqueur, who stood around, holding their drinks with or without cherries and, if possible, avoiding plastic beakers.
Founded at the end of the 19th century by the current proprietors’ grandfather, João Lourenço Cima, the Ginjinha Sem Rival shop maintains its original layout, but the Art Déco-influenced work was added at a later date, given that the style did not become widespread until the 1920s. It opens at an unlikely hour considered for the intake of liqueur, at eight in the morning, and serves all comers until the end of the day. Proof that no time or pretext is necessary for a glass of ginjinha, or capilé, redcurrant syrup or even a glass of “Eduardino” liqueur, named after the clown pictured on the bottle’s label. The clown, who performed in the Coliseu just a stone’s throw away, was a regular customer. Different versions of the story say that he would come in before a show (to get inspired) or after it (to wind down). What is certain is that Eduardo the Clown gave rise, through a fortunate streak of inspiration, to a drink which features the habitual ginja cherry, but also aniseed and other aromas. The concoction caught on so much that within a short time it was available in bottled and labelled form. It became a registered trademark in 1908 and today is an integral part of the shop’s life. Closer examination of the label reveals the following message: “This house never competed in a domestic or foreign exposition” – with the kind of humility that underlines the peremptory force of the name chosen for the shop: Sem Rival (without rival, i.e. peerless)!
Ginjinha Sem Rival preserves other old liqueur recipes, some of which are no longer available on the market. The shop also supplies the ginjinha sold in other houses in Lisbon, such as A Tendinha do Rossio.
Ginjinha and Eduardino liqueurs