Queimada, The Traditional Galician Drink That's Set On Fire

Located in the northwest corner of Spain lies the autonomous community of Galicia. This secluded region is known for its remote beaches, lush forested lands, and a cuisine that's rich in seafood. Their Atlantic Ocean-side location has deeply influenced these communities' culinary traditions and has made them famous for several dishes, including their incredible pulpo a la Gallega. However, if you happen to be visiting Galicia during late June or October, you might stumble across some roadside mixology that will take your breath away before you even get to try the octopus.

Queimada, also known as the "fire drink," is a cocktail like you've never seen before. This traditional punch gets lit on fire during important celebrations, and the magical experience is wrapped in lore and ritual. In fact, there's deep significance in just consuming the beverage, an act called conxuro da queimada, or "the spell of queimada" in Spanish. But, before you take a sip of the potent yet sweet queimada, it's worth learning about its storied past.

History of queimada

While you may assume this extravagant drink would be able to be traced back to a dramatic origin story, surprisingly little is known about when this drink was first created. While some rumors say that it dates all the way back to BC times, it's more likely that it has roots in medieval times. Either way, this drink has since become synonymous with both Witches' Night and Halloween celebrations in the country, where lots of ritual is involved in its consumption.

A more modern addition to this drink is a famous Gallego spell, which was first recited in the 1960s. It is often spoken while this drink is being lit on fire and stirred. The spell's main purpose is to keep evil spirits away, but it can also have additional benefits for the person who drinks it. Atlas Obscura notes, "Your first sip banishes evil spirits, your second clears your mind of hate, and your third fills your soul with passion." Who couldn't benefit from a drink like that?

And, with an ingredients list like this one, it certainly does seem like the fiery punch could actually be a powerful potion. However, it's not so extravagant that you can't make it for yourself at home.

Ingredients in queimada

Orujo is the traditional liquor used in this show-stopping punch. It's a very strong, yellow-colored liquor native to the Galicia region in Spain. It's a distilled liquor made from grapes, as it's actually a by-product of wine production. While the fruity grape flavor does shine through some, this 100-proof booze is not for the light-hearted. If you have a hard time getting your hands on orujo at your local liquor store, you can hunt around for grappa instead. This similarly-made alcohol may also be a great substitute if you're looking for a sweeter-tasting queimada, as it's much less intense than orujo.

However, there is plenty of sugar that gets added into the cocktail, so you don't have to worry about being overwhelmed by an overpowering alcoholic flavor. On top of that, lemon peels, and sometimes whole lemon slices, also get added into this punch, along with bitter coffee beans and optional cinnamon sticks. While this traditional combination may be a bit surprising, all the aromatics work together to create a truly delectable experience. Luckily, if you're looking for an easy-to-make yet impressive punch to serve at your next dinner party, this mystical recipe can be made in under 10 minutes. 

How is queimada made

While you may think the hard part of making this cocktail is hunting down all the authentic Spanish ingredients, it may actually be a bit more difficult to secure a proper serving dish. If you have a local Spanish grocery store near you, it's worth visiting to see if they carry a big fireproof serving bowl that was created for this purpose. Online retailers are also a great spot to look. 

Once you have your bowl, you can begin by mixing the orujo with sugar and your other ingredients in a well-ventilated space. Ideally, doing this outside on a sturdy, fireproof surface would be the safest location. Once the bowl of liquor is well combined, the drink can be safely lit on fire using a long-handled lighter or long match. The entire drink will go up in flames, so make sure everyone enjoys the spectacle until the flames glow blue. Then, put out the flames by placing a secure lid on top of the pot. The drink can be served immediately.

Make sure to enjoy this hot drink after dinner for a true Galician experience. While you likely don't celebrate Witches' Night in your region of the world, this may be the perfect spooky drink to make for a Halloween party or to easily add some pizzazz to an otherwise dull family gathering. After all, is it really an eventful party if you don't have to keep a fire extinguisher nearby?