Yes, you can get an imperial for 1€. You can even get a glass of house wine for 0.75€ in some places — hell, you can get a bottle of wine for 2€! (And often a pretty good one.) But sometimes you want to go that extra mile and get some really fancy booze. Here’s where to procure the delicacies of the alcohol world, whether you’re a gin fanatic or a scotch connoisseur.
James Bond was an alcoholic with unlimited government backing, which means you can trust his taste in tipple, and despite what Daniel Craig did with those Heineken bottles, Ian Flemming wrote the spy character as a fan of Stolichnaya. Which can be found pretty much anywhere.
But if you want truly exceptional vodka, you go for Russian Standard, carried by all the Garrafeiras Nacional shops and, increasingly, many other liquor stores. If you’re an asshole, by all means go for the Platinum or Gold or whatever rare mineral these people are trying to peddle. If you just need good-quality vodka, the regular — at a price similar to Stoli — will do just fine and will taste better than those French ones that come in the skinny bottles and set you back at least two lap dances.
A close runner-up to the best vodka you can get in Portugal is Ukraine’s Nemiroff Honey Pepper Vodka, which you don’t put in your bloody mary, you drink it on the rocks, or, if you must, shots. The marvelous invention that is MixMarkt is where you get it. – O Vadio
Whisky / whiskey / [hwis-kee, wis-]
People have various tastes, which means each person will prefer one whiskey over another. Some will like scotch, others bourbon. As I’m sure you’re aware, everybody but you is completely wrong, with awful taste and lacking in understanding for what really makes a good whiskey.
Well, there is plenty to quench your thirst in Lisbon. Much like vodka, Garrafeira Nacional will stock pretty much any type you’re after. If, like me, you are a bourbon drinker, you may struggle to find anything other than Jim Beam in most bars. Some exceptions, like Botequim, will stock Four Roses. Old Fashioneds are hit-and-miss around the city, often being made with cheaper whiskey, or even scotch (shock horror). Top tip: go buy decent rye or bourbon and a bottle of bitters and make it yourself.
Oh, and in case you were wondering: the Scots spell it “whisky” and the Irish and Americans spell it “whiskey.” – Eden Flaherty
If money is no issue, Garrafeira Nacional will hook you up with Patron and all the other well-promoted fancy stuff. If money is no issue but you also care about having good tequila, which is a peasant’s drink so therefore seems a bit ridiculous to shell out that kind of money for, all you do is go with a reputable brand that sells pure agave stuff. Cuervo came out with some recently, but its (very reasonable) price point suggests they’re trying to compete with the one and only Hornitos by Sauza. An Irish man that lords over O’Gilin’s Irish Bar stocks the stuff, although you may have to be persuasive with the bartenders to part with it. If you want to indulge or entertain outside the bar, the only place in the entire country of Portugal that carries it (prove us wrong) is Napoleão in Baixa, at Rua dos Fanqueiros 70. And they run out of it all the time. – O Vadio
If you are spending any time at all in Lisbon, you will have heard about this cherry-based liqueur. Popular with tourists and locals alike, it is relatively easy to find, and much of what’s available commercially is pretty good stuff. Chocolate cups are common and can add a little sweetness to the sometimes bitter drink. If you want the really good stuff, make sure it is pulled from under the counter of a restaurant that says they don’t have any. Plain bottles and cork are a sure sign of some fresh-off-the-tree booze. – Eden
The Grand Crus Bordeaux Reds
Perhaps one day you will find yourself in much credit card debt, without prospect of paid employment, and uncertain whether you will be able to pay rent the next month. We, upon finding ourselves in said situation not so long ago, decided to nevertheless fly on our 40€ round-trip tickets to Bordeaux. Once there, we went further into debt sampling what, after the sampling, turned out to be the best wine in the world bar none, which is Bordeaux wine from the big fancy chateaux. It took a few years to settle that credit card bill, but the love, like a horrible STD, remained. If you have succumbed to a similar ailment, may we suggest you treat your craving at the gourmet section of El Corte Iglês? They have the Cheval Blanc stocked, but they also have Bordeaux that will only cost you about the same as that fancy guacamole toast for two. – O Vadio
What Is a Martini?
A Martini, or a martini, rather, is a classic cocktail that no matter what the dread-locked bartender at your favorite hip new joint in Principe Real says, is still just: gin, white vermouth, served with olives. The proper proportions for an extra dry one, per that other grand alcoholic Ernest Hemingway, is simple: if the gin were the volume of an eyeball, the vermouth should be the size of a tear. Ponder that poetry for a little. One, three, five, or seven olives, you can put them on a stick or not, but it better be an odd number or you’re putting a curse on the drinker. Serve in whatever glass you like, but traditionally it is a stemmed one, and you should chill it with a few ice cubes and tap water while you shake or stir the soup, and either of those methods are fine, but if you want that taste of blood on your lips, go for shaken, and tell your bartender. The gin? Not pink, not blue, that’s for sure. Standard Tanqueray and standard Beefeater taste superior to the fancy stuff, in our humble but studied opinion. However, if MOTHER is in town, Magellan’s and Hendrick’s are worth splurging on.
But what about Bond, you ask? He drinks “vodka martinis,” which is fine, but no, that’s not a “martini.” – O Vadio
Pirate Juice: Rum
Rum, in some ways, is like the grandfather of modern booze. Why? Because without its popularity among privateers and, later, the British Royal Navy, we would never have had the concept of “proof.” In the United State, the “proof” of an alcohol is twice the percentage, meaning 80 proof equals 40% alcohol. Clever, huh? So, where can you seek out a tasty seafaring tipple? Well, the previously mentioned high-brow shops are a good place to start. However, if you fancy being out and about rather than curled up at home with a bottle of overproof rum, then maybe head to a bar. Both my choices for rum happen to be on the same street, Rua de Sao Paulo. Firstly, Tabacaria, which carries a massive range and a bartender who knows how to serve them. Secondly, if you keep walking along the street from Tabacaria (heading towards Santos), you will reach a tiny place, with more decor than seats and a handwritten menu. The bar’s called Corto Maltese and it has good rum. – Eden
(O Vadio: You can’t go wrong with Palheta, formerly Viagem. Just like his predecessors, Frankie has a wonderful curiosity for all things rum, which means his selection is on point and his concoctions dangerously smooth. Just like you, sailor.)
…and Beer and Wine
All illustrations by beloved contributor and man-about-town Bogdan Kamuta.