Fallen in love with a brandy liqueur I discovered in the Algarve. Medronho is wonderful! The liqueur or in Portuguese, licor, is made from the fruit of the medronheiro (medronho) or strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo,) that grows wild in the arid, rocky parts of Portugal. The brandy smells and tastes delightful, fruity, sweet and flowery. The distinct overtones of honey are from honey added to create liqueur with up to approximately 30% alcohol content.
This stuff is delicious! It is called firewater by the locals because it warms as it flows down your throat. Medronho is a truly native spirit. The strawberry trees are not farmed, but grow wild. Farmers pick the fruit from their trees to make preserves and jams and to ferment for the alcoholic drink. Because it is made in small batches by local farmers, there is never a big supply of medronho and the price reflects that. Luckily, since it is taken in small shots, or as I like it, over ice, a little medronho goes a long way.
There are different varieties of the brandy made from strawberry tree fruit. Some is just plain, straight aguardente de medronhos with as much as 48% alcohol content, some is sweetened with honey to make the licor and some is special, aged medronho. The licor is a lovely golden color from the honey. It is my favorite.
I purchased this little bottle for 4 euro in a gift shop at The End of the World, Cape Sao Vicente, the most southwesterly point in Europe. The bottle only held 2 oz, one shot, but I could feel the effects. It is very warming, even at the 17% alcohol content of this particular brand.
I brought one small bottle home with me from my recent trip to Portugal, to share with my husband. Last night we had it and now all that is left is the forlorn glass remains. I put it in the window with some of the unprecedented three-plus feet of snow we have as background.
The rain running down the window could represent my tears at the empty bottle. Sure wish I’d loaded my luggage down with medronho, although I may not have gotten so much past customs. The brandy is not available in America except via airmail from Portugal. Guess I’ll just have to go back to the Algarve!
Here are links to a blog site about the medronheiro tree, its fruit and alcohol.