The 'queimada': Galicia's magical beverage



If you're heading for Galicia, we recommend you take part in the famous ritual of the queimada. The basic ingredient is the drink known in Spain as aguardiente (a type of colourless brandy), and this rite is guaranteed to keep witches and the spirits of the night at bay…

Many restaurants in Galicia offer the chance to take part in the ritual of making the queimada, as well as the chance to sample it once made. This is a genuine spectacle which involves various different steps. First the spirit is poured into an enamelled earthenware container, followed by sugar, orange and lemon rind and coffee or red wine (according to taste). Then, with great care, the liquid is set alight to make it burn, while it is stirred with a large spoon. Then comes the most important part: a spell is invoked as the flames climb higher. This is normally recited in the language of Galicia, and conjures up witches, demons, spirits, owls… Finally, once the flames have burnt themselves out, all that remains is to taste the brew. In some places, the whole process is also accompanied by the music of bagpipes, the typical instrument of Galicia. The special experience of taking part in this ritual is a sure-fire way to learn more about the essence of Galician traditions. In fact, the queimada represents all the civilisations that have passed through these lands in northern Spain. The poetic elements in the spell recall the Celts, the taste for flambéed drinks is reminiscent of the Roman and Germanic peoples, and the sugar and brandy hark back to the time of the Arabs. To experience this ritual even more intensely, you can also take in any of the Galician festivals which pay veritable homage to this ancient rite, such as the Festa da Queimada do Castro, in Sada (A Coruña) on the last weekend in August, or the Popular Queimada in Cervo (Lugo), on the Saturday following 16 August. For more information check the official tourism website for Galicia .  

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