Aguardente and Medronho Liquors

The “Medronho” — arbutus berries — matures when winter knocks on the door. This a warm colored fruit, which grows easily everywhere, likes humidity and spreads throughout the Algarvian hills. It’s harvested from October to November, being sunk in a bit of water for 40 days, then, it is smashed and covered. Afterwards, the fruits are placed inside an “alambique” — batch system — to be cooked, it is then covered and the mud is pasted around the lid so that the air doesn’t get through.

Medronho Berries

When the bubbling foam comes up, the arbutus berries are ready to be distilled. The fire is turned on, first with small wood branches then with thicker ones until it comes to a boiling point. On the other side of the serpentine (where distillation is made) and where cold water runs through to cool the liquor down, there is the container where the liquor begins to drop in, having around 23-25% of alcohol.

A requisite for a good “Medronho” is a balanced fermentation and to avoid mixing with fruits from other harvests in the same bowl. The harvest and the distillation are done by the whole family.

In the past, the Medronho liquor was used to accompany meals, nowadays it is drunk as a “shot” in a small chalice “to keep the cold away”.

In Tavira, besides the Medronho liquor, there is also production of fig, carob and several other liqueurs, elaborated from Algarvian products, like the carob, pennyroyal, lemon, acorn, fig, etc.