Queimada is a fascinating ritualistic beverage from Galicia, Spain, whose origins are obscure at best and confounding at worst. In Galicia, Queimada is made with Orujo, a pomace brandy found in the northeastern Spanish regions Galicia, Asturias, and Castile and León. Galegan Quiemada is made by setting the Orujo on fire, adding sugar, lemon rinds, cinnamon, and coffee beans, and cooking the beverage down until the proof lowers, some times inside a hollowed out pumpkin. The product is a warmly flavored, slightly sweet cocktail.
There seem to be three basic points of reference that continue to appear in Queimada’s origin stories: a Celtic ancestor beverage brought to Iberia long ago; that the beverage was originated by the Moors during their reign over the Peninsula; that the ritual of Queimada was invented in the mid-1900s. It seems most likely that the Moors improved an old tradition after their conquest introduced distilled spirits and a taste for bitter elements like lemon zest and coffee to Iberia.
Modern practice incorporates an incantation, in Galegan, into the ritual that exhorts the pure spirits of the air and the ancestors to chase off all manner of evil things. This element of the ritual seems most hilarious—while seeming to be an ancient tradition the incantation was actually written by a man named Mariano Marcos Abalo in 1957. It’s possible that the “official” Queimada incantation replaced a more unofficial tradition of ad hoc “spells,” but it doesn’t much matter—the modern Conxuro de Queimada is so popularly linked to the official spell the two are inseparable.
We’ve developed a blend of spirits for the base of our house Queimada. A blend of two rye whiskeys joins Oloroso sherry, apple brandy, and a bit of our cinnamon syrup in a clay pot. These are cooked with lemon peel, coffee beans, and apple chips, and served in a glass with a small bit of brandy to help cool the beverage and bring the proof back up. The result is a gorgeous, aromatic, special cocktail with comforting flavors and surprising depth. And, of course, protection from the Evil Eye.