The Aguardente de Medronhos is a strong spirit, a traditional fruit brandy from Portugal, obtained from the fruit of the Medronho tree, Arbutus unedo, also called strawberry tree. Medronho trees grow wild on the poor soils in rural regions of Portugal such as Tojeiro and the inner Algarve.
There is no commercial plantation of the trees and the fruits are mainly collected by local farmers, by hand and processed privately. Therefore, good Aguardente de Medronhos is not easily found in supermarkets but instead bought mostly directly from these farmers. Very few farmers have a license for distillation, but are tolerated by the authorities to keep this traditional Portuguese specialty alive.
Aguardente de Medronhos is very popular with ordinary people, such as farmers and fishermen, and often drunk for breakfast to wake the spirits. A commercial derivative, sweetened with honey and flavoured with herbs, is sold under the brand name Brandymel.
Aguardente de Medronhos is also known as Firewater to non-Portuguese speakers. It is a rough translation from água ardente, which is Portuguese for burning water. The spirit obtains this name from the hot sensation as the consumed beverage travels down the throat and is felt through the sinuses.
Alcohol content of the beverage can vary, however many bottles of Aguardente de Medronhos contain around 48%. The beverage is consumed in shot-glass sized portions.
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