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Orujo

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Orujo is a liquor obtained from the distillation of the pomace (solid remains left after pressing) of the grape. It is a transparent spirit with an alcohol content over 50% (100° proof). Its name comes from the expression "aguardiente de orujo" (pomace eau-de-vie).

It is a popular beverage in the northwest part of Spain, especially in Galicia where it is also called aguardente or caña and is an element of collective identity. Although orujo from Galicia is probably the most famous, it is also made in other regions, such as Cantabria.

Left: Pomace (the solid remains of grapes after pressing) is used to produced grappa.

Orujo’s basic ingredient is the residue from wine production. Once the grapes are crushed, the orujos or residue of the grapes can be used to produce the liqueur of the same name. The grape skins, seeds and stalks are fermented in closed vats and then distilled. Stills, called alambiques, are traditionally large copper kettles that are heated over an open fire, while a poteiro (orujo distiller) watches over his brew. The distilling process in the alambiques takes 6 hours or more. The copper stills used by Galicians for centuries are thought to have been brought to the Iberian peninsula by the Arabs.

The orujo that is produced by the distillation is a colorless liquor, while the orujo envejecido or "aged orujo" is amber in color. The aged variety is fermented and distilled the same way, but is then poured into oak barrels to age for at least two years.

From orujo, Galicians traditionally make a drink called queimada, in which bits of lemon peel, sugar and ground coffee are put into a clay pot. Then the orujo is poured on top and the pot is lit on fire until the flame turns blue. This ancient tradition dates back to Celtic times and includes a ritual where the queimada-maker recites a "spell" as he makes the drink.

Orujo, although with distinct names and characteristics, is also found in other countries, such as Italy (where it is produced as grappa), Germany where its name is Tresterschnaps, Peru (known as Pisco), Portugal (known as Bagaceira), Hungary (törkölypálinka), while in Bulgaria, Montenegro, Croatia, Greece, and Cyprus it is the local variant of Rakia. In Galicia itself it is also sometimes referred to as Aguardente and in the rest of Spain as Aguardiente.

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