The Madeiran Christmas
Christmas has for Madeiran people a special charm unique in the world. The “Feast Day” is related in every sense of
Madeira is an island that offers a range of drinks that have become a part of Madeira´s tradition. Drinks such as “Poncha”, “Nikita”, “Coral” and the world famous “Madeira Wine”. These alcoholic drinks are traditionally served at bars, restaurants and at local and festive events. Here are some suggestions for traditional drink you must try in Madeira during your stay on the island:
Over the centuries, the “Madeira Wine” won worldwide reputation, and both the island and the wine become a synonymous of quality. It is a unique wine, intense, sweet and fresh, which gets better over the years.
Madeira wine is characterized by its taste of caramelized sugar, result from the aging in wooden cask. The best tasting glasses are tulip shape and average size in order to make better perceive the fragrance. The four major types of Madeira wine are designated by the name of its varieties: Malvasia, Boal, Verdelho and Sercial.
The remaining varieties of Madeira wine take also the name of the varieties from which they are produced: Tinta Negra Mole, Bastardo, Terrantez and Muscat.
The high reputation and prestige of this Wine may also be confirmed by innumerable episodes, amongst which, the celebration of the independence of the United States of America in 1776, which was commemorated with a toast made with Madeira Wine!
Many great personalities, statesmen and mythical personalities were enchanted by this Wine, of whom George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are symbolic examples, both profoundly knowledgeable on Madeira Wine, as well as Winston Churchill who had the opportunity to get to know and enjoy this Wine during his visits to the island.
You can find it at virtually every restaurant and shop around the island. The prices range from affordable to very very expensive depending on the year and type.
The “Poncha” is a traditional alcoholic beverage from Madeira, made with sugar cane rum, bee honey and lemon juice. It can also be prepared with other fruit juices, like orange or mandarin, but the lemon juice is what is used in its original, traditional and better known version. It is mixed with a tool officially created for this purpose, called a muskot “Caralhinho” (also known as a slang word meaning small penis). It can be found throughout the entire island, some of the most famous places for your poncha are: “Taberna da Poncha” (Serra de Agua – Ribeira Brava), “Number 2” (Funchal), “Casa de Abrigo do Poiso”.. Be warned, it is delicious and very strong.
Madeira has a great local beer called “Coral“. Brewed by Empresa de Cervejas da Madeira since 1969, this is the beer you order on Madeira! It is made from the best malts of Czech origin, fermented and cured at low temperatures. It has a pale gold color, a clean, aromatic flavor, a body of light and a pleasant aroma, highly esteemed by locals and visitors alike.
The “Nikita” is a typical drink of Câmara de Lobos, but it is popular all over the island and its creation dates back to 1985 when the success of Helton John – “Nikita”. Nikita is made of ice cream (various flavors), sugar, pineapple rings, and an alcoholic beverage, such as white wine and / or white beer, all of which are well mixed until creamy. For this mixture is usually used the poncha stick.
The “Pé de Cabra” is a traditional alcoholic beverage from Madeira, prepared with dry wine (or Madeira wine), black beer, sugar, chocolate powder and lemon peel.
This drink originates from Câmara de Lobos and is prepared with the help of the poncha stick.
The production of cider is made in a domestic environment, especially in the parishes of Santo da Serra, São Roque do Faial and Prazeres and is the result of an alcoholic fermentation of apple juice. Can be served in 2 ways, cold and hot. The cold comes only from the fermentation of apple juice and the hot one has its flavor and scent modified by the heat.
The “Ginja” is a traditional liqueur from Curral das Freiras (Nun’s valley) made through the infusion of Ginjas, in alcohol and adding caramel along with other ingredients.
This liqueur is one of the favorites of many inhabitants of the island and a typical drink in the Nun’s Valley, this region produces cherry with protected denomination of origin (Ginja do Curral das Freiras).
The “Brisa” is a name of a carbonated drink, a very popular brand in Madeira and it has a variety of flavors: passion fruit, apple, lemon and orange. The “Laranjada” is a carbonated soda flavored orange. It was launched in 1872, being the first soda to be produced in Portugal. It is very refreshing, excellent mixed with wine (“sangria“) and, as is customary in Madeira, with Beer “Coral“. You can find these two soft drinks in any bar, restaurant, supermarket around the island.
With a history dating back half a century, here you can find some of the oldest sugar cane mills.
Currently, almost all sugarcane production is destined for the manufacture of sugarcane honey and agricultural rum (produced exclusively by alcoholic fermentation and distillation of sugarcane juice “guarapa”), traditionally “Cane Rum” (Aguardente de Cana), with distinctive and unique aromas, is recognized by several specialized tasters as a product of unquestionable quality.
In Calheta village, you will find one of the factory that operates once a year, normally just after Easter Week. It produces high quality rum, produced through controlled fermentation and careful distillation, along with sugar cane syrup, obtained by steam cooking sugar cane juice.
The facility and all the machinery used for the production of sugar cane spirits and syrup, can be visited all year round. It has a tasting room and a cellar-bar.
William Hinton created his Rum distillery factory in Madeira in 1845, where he produced the best rum from carefully selected fresh cane juice. Thanks to the excellence of the sugar cane used, “Madeira Rum” is distilled only once, while maintaining its scent and freshness.
Wine has always been produced on the island, but the vineyard area was incomparably larger than it is today, the development, the construction of hotels and the golf course have reduced the existing vineyards.
The soils in Porto Santo are very limestone, which gives them excellent conditions for agriculture, giving much more sugar to the fruit. The vineyards are in sandy soils, some of them creeping to keep out of the wind.
As the Priest Gaspar Frutuoso wrote in “Saudades da Terra”: “Along this coast, although it is of sand, there are many vineyards, which give good grapes ..”
Where to take: Bar 3 V’s (Wine, Vine and Turn)
The “Tim Tam Tum” is a Madeira traditional liquor always present during the holiday season. The tradition is to serve a glass of liquor to the visitors, while they watch the “Christmas Tree”. It is a strong drink that can be bought already made, or homemade.
This liqueur is made based on anise, very easy to enjoy just with ice or in a cocktail. Anise or fennel (Pimpinella anisum) is a plant of the family Apiaceae, formerly called Umbelliferae. Its fruit in the form of seed is used in confectionery and liquor (as anisete, zammù, uzo). The fruit consists of two united pistils and has a strong aromatic flavor and a powerful smell.
Homemade liqueurs are an old tradition of Madeira and Porto Santo.
The “Licor de Tangerina” is made with the tangerine peels (without the white skins) inside the alcohol and let macerate a month. Make a syrup with sugar and water, which should be warm. Finally, it is added in the alcohol, shaken well and coax.
The “Cortadinho” is a hot drink made up of coffee wine and a lemon peel. We can taste this drink in Ribeiro Frio in the “Faìsca” bar.
Certainly many options to choose from, leave us your suggestions about your favorite drinks in Madeira.