There are many myths and mysteries surrounding the ritual of making queimada, the “fire drink” of Galicia, which is thought to have originated in ancient times when Celts established villages and settled in the region of Galicia, though historians dispute if this timeline is possible. Although this drink is made with orujo, a strong liqueur similar to grappa, much of the alcohol is burned off in the flames. This is the perfect specialty drink for an outdoor Halloween or winter party, as it's traditionally served at family gatherings. It's also popular on "Witches Night," also known as St. Jon's Night, which is celebrated annually on the night of June 23.
In addition to the tradition of the beverage itself, there's a legend of an accompanying spell that's reportedly said in Gallego, the language of Galicia, while the fire is lit. The spell is meant to not only purify the drink but also ward off evil spirits and share the beverage with family and friends no longer with you. The story persists that the spell goes back to Medieval times; however, it actually originated in 1967.
For the preparation of this drink, you will need a large fireproof clay pot or bowl, sealed or glazed on the interior and a very long-handled wooden spoon to stir the queimada. Sets of clay pots and glasses made specifically for this purpose are available through grocery stores and websites specializing in Spanish food.
Place the clay pot or bowl on a fireproof table of atop a cold BBQ grill. Be sure to have a large lid handy to put out the flames.
Pour approximately 4 tablespoons orujo and 1 tablespoon sugar into a small glass and stir to dissolve sugar, then set aside.
Pour the rest of the orujo and remaining sugar into the clay bowl and stir. Add the lemon peel and coffee beans and stir again.
Pour the orujo and sugar mixture from the glass into a ladle and light it on fire. Carefully move the ladle very close to the clay pot until the orujo mixture in the pot catches fire. Stir frequently until the flames turn blue. Slide the lid over the pot to put out the flames. Serve hot.
- Play around with the spices you add to queimada, such as cinnamon sticks or whole cloves.
- If you can't find Orujo, use Italian grappa or brandy.
- As with anything that includes fire, be extra-careful when setting the beverage aflame, keeping a fire extinguisher nearby.
- Traditional pumpkin variation: Rather than in a clay pot, queimada is often traditionally made in a hollowed-out pumpkin. Add all the ingredients to the pumpkin and set it on fire, as in the standard recipe, being careful that the pumpkin itself doesn't catch on fire.