Celtic rites, green hills and dense forests, rugged coasts, bagpipes, druids and witch magic… Guess what country I am talking about here… exactly: Spain!
Anyone who now thinks I am crazy has definitely not yet been to a special part of Spain that is surprisingly largely unknown to the majority of Spain tourists coming from abroad: Galicia.

Galicia is located in the very northwest of the Iberian Peninsula, north of Portugal. The Galicians living there actually have Celtic roots with several Celtic invasions suspected from the 7th century B.C. onwards. Moreover, the geographical remoteness of Galicia due to mountain ranges bounding the region (Galicia also existed as an independent kingdom for a while) contributed to the fact that during the Moorish occupation period in Spain, the Moors never settled there. In fact, this is also becoming phenotypically apparent regarding the population of this region. Red-haired and blond people are not uncommon here, which probably does not fit into the typical image most people have of Spain.

typical Galician coastline

green hills, rocks and the Atlantic ocean

Why am I talking about Galicia here? Well, the answer is obvious, because Galicia has a lot to offer in terms of spirits and drinking culture. This is not only due to the nearby Portugal (especially nearby Porto and the flourishing port wine culture there), Galicia also has a tradition of its own liqueurs and spirits. Particularly noteworthy is the Orujo (or Aguardiente de Orujo), a grape marc spirit with an ABV of between 37 and 50 percent, which has been regionally protected by the Denominación Específica (D.E.) de Orujo de Galicia quality label since 1989. A good Orujo in itself is already a rather solid, tasty experience, which is quite similar to Grappa. But Galicia’s true liquid celebrity is the Queimada, a burning hot drink supposedly dating back to Celtic roots.

In fact, Queimada is widespread throughout Galicia and there are numerous myths and legends surrounding this drink, which is usually enjoyed in groups. In a kind of ritual, the so-called Conxuro is obligatory, an incantation formula, which – together with the fire – is supposed to cleanse the Queimada and keep evil spirits and curses away.

The truth here is indeed less romantic: as historians have found out, Queimada is ultimately a community-building drinking ritual that emerged among Galician exiles in the 1950s. However, who knows? Maybe the Celtic spirits of nature have something to do with it nonetheless (even if the Celts have not yet distilled their own liquor). Anyway, to be on the safe side, I’d rather not leave out the Conxuro.

It sound as follows:

Galician language English
Mouchos, curuxas, sapos e bruxas.

Demos, trasgos e diaños,

espíritos das neboadas veigas.

Corvos, píntegas e meigas:

feitizos das menciñeiras.

Podres cañotas furadas,

fogar dos vermes e alimañas.

Lume das Santas Compañas,

mal de ollo, negros meigallos,

cheiro dos mortos, tronos e raios.

Ouveo do can, pregón da morte;

fuciño do sátiro e pé do coello.

Pecadora lingua da mala muller

casada cun home vello.

Averno de Satán e Belcebú,

lume dos cadáveres ardentes,

corpos mutilados dos indecentes,

peidos dos infernais cus,

muxido da mar embravecida.

Barriga inútil da muller solteira,

falar dos gatos que andan á xaneira,

guedella porca da cabra mal parida.

Con este fol levantarei

as chamas deste lume

que asemella ao do Inferno,

e fuxirán as bruxas

a cabalo das súas vasoiras,

índose bañar na praia

das areas gordas.

¡Oíde, oíde! os ruxidos

que dan as que non poden

deixar de queimarse no augardente

quedando así purificadas.

E cando este beberaxe

baixe polas nosas gorxas,

quedaremos libres dos males

da nosa alma e de todo embruxamento.

Forzas do ar, terra, mar e lume,

a vós fago esta chamada:

se é verdade que tendes máis poder

que a humana xente,

eiquí e agora, facede que os espíritos

dos amigos que están fóra,

participen con nós desta Queimada.

Owls, barn owls, toads and witches.

Demons, goblins and devils,

spirits of the misty vales.

Crows, salamanders and witches,

charms of the folk healer(ess).

Rotten pierced canes,

home of worms and vermin.

Wisps of the Holy Company,

evil eye, black witchcraft,

scent of the dead, thunder and lightning.

Howl of the dog, omen of death,

maws of the satyr and foot of the rabbit.

Sinful tongue of the bad woman

married to an old man.

Satan and Beelzebub’s Inferno,

fire of the burning corpses,

mutilated bodies of the indecent ones,

farts of the asses of doom,

bellow of the enraged sea.

Useless belly of the unmarried woman,

speech of the cats in heat,

dirty turf of the wicked born goat.

With this bellows I will pump

the flames of this fire

which looks like that from Hell,

and witches will flee,

straddling their brooms,

going to bathe in the beach

of the thick sands.

Hear! Hear the roars

of those that cannot

stop burning in the firewater,

becoming so purified.

And when this beverage

goes down our throats,

we will get free of the evil

of our soul and of any charm.

Forces of air, earth, sea and fire,

to you I make this call:

if it’s true that you have more power

than people,

here and now, make the spirits

of the friends who are outside,

take part with us in this Queimada.

If this is a bit too tricky in terms of language, you can also have the whole thing read out comfortably via YouTube (see below). I guess this is where supposed Celtic rituals and the 21st century elegantly come together.

But above all, the taste experience that a Queimada can offer is also elegant. Purists make their Queimada just using Orujo, sugar and at most the zests of a lemon, but I have opted for a more interesting variant, which in my opinion tastes somewhat more attractive: so I also added the zest of an orange and some coffee beans. Furthermore – the Celtic spirits may forgive me – I have added some Dashes of Orange Bitters, some cloves and a few slices of ginger. If you like it more puristic, leave all of that out (and replace the Orujo with an unmatured grappa).

Recipe “Queimada”:

1 litre Aguardiente de Orujo
150g fine white sugar
zests of one lemon
zests of one orange (optional)
a handful of coffee beans (optional)
6 cloves (optional)
4 small slices of ginger (optional)
10 Dashes Orange Bitters (optional)

Preparation: Mix all ingredients in a refractory clay bowl except for about 6 cl of Orujo and a slightly heaped tablespoon of sugar. Mix until the sugar has dissolved as much as possible. Finally, mix the remaining Orujo with the tablespoon of sugar in a small glass and fill it in a fireproof ladle and light it. Let the ladle with the burning contents sink carefully into the clay bowl until all the liquid begins to burn. First, bluish flames will appear above the surface. Wait at least half a minute and then let burning liquid flow down the ladle while slowly moving it up and down again and again – while reciting the Conxuro! All of that can take several minutes. Only when the flames go out on their own (as already mentioned, this could take up to ten minutes), put the Queimada into small clay drinking bowls.

Glass: large, fireproof clay bowl with a ladle and small clay drinking bowls for serving

Garnish: none

Buying sources: At specialized retailers or online. If you cannot find an Orujo outside Galicia, you can replace it with grappa or order it online.


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